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A critical look at An Inconvenient Truth

November 4, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

Today in my Development of Geographic Thought class in NUS, we had presentations on three different strands of thought namely Political Economy, Social Theory and Nature & Society. These three strands of thought have been significant in the development of geographic thought in Human Geography and are  taught only during the Honours Year. There were 10 groups in all and 3 were set to present on Nature and Society. The reading/article they were supposed to critique as part of the assignment was Timothy Luke’s ‘2008 paper on ‘The politics of true convenience or inconvenient truth: struggles over how to sustain capitalism, democracy, and ecology in the 21st century’ found in Environment and Planning A, Vol.40(8), pp.1811-824.

Simply put, Luke’s paper is a critique of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Luke suggests that the movie invokes a “state of emergency”, has a distict political motive and causes the “green-washing” of corporations in the U.S, which does not serve to help the environment but delay real climate action.

The groups took varied approaches to deconstruct Luke’s paper on Al Gore. You could say that this presentation/assignment entails discursive analysis on a discourse analysis of a film! But in any case, the alternative approaches as contended by my classmates were Eco-feminism, Political Ecology and Post-colonial/Post-structural. These approaches in Human Geography form the contemporary academic arguments that we can use to critique and critically analyse popular films and movements such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

Gore is said to be overly masculinist and to be promoting sustainable degradation in his 2006 hit film. Also, my classmates argued that Gore’s effort towards climate action only served to reinforce the American hegemonic relations and can be considered a form of neo-colonial management of the entire planet! The film is also criticised as overly Anglo-American and Gore fails to acknowlege his positionality as a White male.

I guess the take home message for all of us is to be sufficiently critical towards climate change movements and popularist “greening” cultures that are so prevalent today. We must understand that there are always underlying motives and political structure which we often overlook. In order to make informed choices in our bid towards climate change and doing our part, we need to stay viligant and true to this cause by adopting a critical lens. Having said this, that is not to say that Al Gore hasn’t done a good job in relaying the message of urgent climate action to a vast majority of Americans and people around the world. His efforts are commendable (and he’s already won a Nobel Peace Prize for it!) but fail to recognize many micro-politics of environmental change that come with climate change.

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize

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