Manual TypewriterEssays, Reviews, and Commentaries

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

An Inconvenient Truth

Posted By on June 30, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth
By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I’ve been taking the titles of my columns from children’s movies for the past few months, and An Inconvenient Truth, as many of you know, is an adult movie about global warming. I raise the question with this column: is this an appropriate movie to watch with children?

Let’s start with some basics: Al Gore is a brilliant man, and global warming is a real issue.

I avoided watching An Inconvenient Truth. I already knew that we are headed to hell in a handbasket when I lit Chanukah candles this December with the windows open, wearing summer clothing. What more could I learn, and more importantly, could I bear knowing it?

I knew about the connections between Hurricane Katrina and climate change; I knew that the ice caps are melting, the ocean waters are rising, and that the Polar Bears may not survive my lifetime. I know these things as I recycle my paper, try to conserve water, and store a few boxes of provisions (water and canned food) just in case (yes, I really do, and you should too). I find these things depressing and overwhelming, and notice my emotions swinging from rage to exhaustion, when I allow myself to indulge in fear for our planet, and all of our futures.

Yet, I found the movie engaging. Al Gore is funny (“I used to be the next president of the United States”) and he is an excellent science teacher, making complex facts understandable, with the right balance all good educators have to be engaging while dazzling their students with facts. He mapped out a persuasive argument of why global warming needs to be the single most important issue facing not just our country, but the entire world community, and not just abstractly, but concretely and immediately. Disregarding partisan politics, he shows how good stewardship for the earth is nothing short of a moral issue. It is impossible to view his statistical graphs and not be completely convinced of the seriousness of the issue. The fact that we are entering a time of great Earth Changes is undeniable, including increased hurricanes, melting glaciers, rising ocean waters, heat waves, wildfires, and blizzards, sometimes arriving with little warning and great intensity in places not accustomed to those climatic conditions.

This is the world in which my children will mature. We have not yet — mid-February in upstate New York — had enough snow for them to toss a few snowballs.

So I sat them down to watch An Inconvenient Truth. They bellyached a bit, and I had to promise them a special dessert if they sat still without punching each other. But they sat for almost the whole movie (I fastforwarded it about 20 minutes), eyes glued to the screen. My 6 year old, who just studied bar graphs in first grade, was able to follow the basic outline of the graphs, and my 11 year old was able to explain where Greenland was, and exclaimed in shock, “Those are really very very VERY big glaciers, Mom! How could they just be melting??” Both children thoroughly enjoyed the cartoons embedded in the documentary, although at first my younger one thought that dumping enormous ice cubes into the ocean to cool off the water was an actual solution for global warming. They are smart kids but political parody may be a bit above their heads. However, the ending song by Melissa Etheridge “I Need to Wake Up,” made this dyke momma’s heart soar.

Neither child seemed harmed in anyway by watching it; no one woke up with nightmares of the planet getting closer and closer to the sun, and maybe just maybe, they complained a bit less when we asked them to PLEASE, shut off the lights when leaving a room. Yet, the debate continues: Should children watch An Inconvenient Truth?

Apparently, the British government is sending copies to every secondary school in England. Stateside, the National Science Teachers Association, declined to accept 50,000 free copies to be distributed to American schools to avoid alienating supporters, like Exxon-Mobil. A suburban Seattle father protested the documentary being shown to a seventh grade classroom. Global warning, he said, is a sign of Christ’s Second Coming. The school board, agreed to offer a more “balanced view” except they couldn’t find any scientific documentation to say that global warming is a myth.

Scholastic Books, the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, however agrees that learning about global warming is necessary and is promoting a new book, The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming for children 8 and up. Our children need to know, what too many of our politicians can’t handle knowing, our planet is in danger. We have been neglectful stewards, and the one biblical prophecy that is too often true, is that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children, and for generations to come. We must teach our children, prepare our children, for what they can see with their own eyes.

Our planet is running a temperature, and we must work together to make her healthy again. Go To An Inconvenient Truth for more information: