baby, it’s hot outside: ‘An Inconvenient Truth, ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?,’ and ‘The Great Warming’

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Maybe the scariest thing about An Inconvenient Truth is how calm Al Gore is, which stands out even more suddenly now, seeing the film on DVD, on a small screen, right in your own living room. He doesn’t shout, he doesn’t rant, he doesn’t get all red in the face. He’s simply there chatting with you in a friendly, down-to-earth way about the coming hell. His still certainty underlines the actual factiness of his facts, and it’s horrifying. Glaciers disappearing, killer heat waves, oceans rising, we’re gonna have to rewrite the maps of the world. Forget speculation — this isn’t just merely scientifically accurate, it’s feel-it-in-your-bones true, and it’s here now, and Al Gore is here to light the way to the beginning of the solutions. (The new 30-minute update on the DVD features more of cool, calm Gore running down the additional evidence that’s come in over the year since the film wrapped, for a hearty extra dose of pee-in-your-pants terror.) Maybe we’ll look back in a few years and see Davis Guggenheim’s documentary as much as the opening salvo in Gore’s 2008 presidential election campaign as the first great consciousness raising of the hot-Earth era, but if that ends up being true, it didn’t have to have been a deliberate move on Gore’s part — he didn’t need to have known in 2005 that he was gonna run for president in 2008, because it might be the intelligent leadership he demonstrates in the film that creates calls for his candidacy in the first place. [buy at Amazon]
Particularly if half the people scared by Truth check out Who Killed the Electric Car?, also new on DVD, about the brief life and criminal death of GM’s revolutionary electric car, the EV1, in the 1990s. Though there’s plenty of blame to go around, Chris Paine’s breezy examination of the case points most of its fingers at the collusion of corporate greed and government corruption — the almost unbelievably maintenance-free car would have put quite a dent in the parts-and-repair segment of the auto industry, never mind the oil companies who would feel the bite of a car that needed no gas, so industry worked with its cronies in government to do everything necessary to get those cars off the road before too many people caught on to their fantastic combination of utility, eco-smarts, and extreme coolness. (Damn, I want me one of those cars!) It all serves as a demonstration of exactly the opposite kind of leadership the entire planet is going to need if we’re to head off the worst of the warming’s deleterious effects. [buy at Amazon]

For those absolute beginners for whom even Gore’s non-wonky explanations of atmospheric carbon concentrations and such are a bit overwhelming, there’s The Great Warming. (You can order a DVD only through the filmmakers, at Narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette, this is a surprisingly friendly and cuddly overview of how we screwed up the planet, what the impact is now, and how it’s going to get much, much worse if we don’t do something quick. The friendliness and cuddliness is less contraindicated than you might think. Though the story the film tells — a litany of disappearing shorelines, too-early springs and too-late autumns messing up essential natural cycles, and the looming prospect of a billion Chinese getting into their own gas-guzzling, air-polluting SUVs — is without question the most important issue facing the planet today, and one that will wreak terrible social, cultural, and economic damage even in the best-case scenario, it would do no good at all to scare folks to the point of inertia. Without sugarcoating the reality, The Great Warming assures us that we can find solutions (as An Inconvenient Truth does, too), that some of them are already within our grasp, but that we do have to reach for them, and soon. Very soon.

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