Planet of the Humans: Review of the Documentary that Sparked Debate
08 May 2020
We watched Planet of the Humans, the new documentary produced by Michael Moore and directed by environmentalist Jeff Gibbs, which examines climate change, fossil fuels, pollution, and the green energy movement. Since its release on YouTube, the documentary has racked up more than 6.2 million views and has faced both criticism and praise.
The documentary is meticulous, solid work, a great beat that – in full Moore style – questions the certainties acquired while multiplying the questions. Some critics say, though, that the film presents a distorted and outdated depiction of the renewable energy industry and doesn’t resemble today’s reality. However, Planet of the Humans certainly makes many important and illuminating points and sheds light on the industries which instead of suggesting how to reduce our consumption of resources such as water, fossil fuels, and hard-rock minerals, seek technological fixes.
Gibbs, who like Moore certainly doesn’t spare you from the truth behind collapsing myths about renewables, indeed he doesn’t save one: the photovoltaic is not efficient, the panels have short lifetimes, the batteries are made of precious extractive material silicon, cobalt, silver, graphite… Wind power works only intermittently with low efficiency. Both technologies need many fossil fuels in their production. Bio masses are the worst we could imagine, including deforestation. Mind you, when it comes to biofuels the scenes are raw, among trees with giant sawn trunks and chopped cows. I did not close my eyes in time and I suffered a lot.
Nobody comes out clean, on the contrary. There is a lot of interest, a lot of pure mixing, even Al Gore, one of the major leaders of the US environmental movement, has bulky skeletons in his closet.
Gibbs’ raid behind the scenes of music festivals that solemnly declare the use of 100% renewable energy makes one smile, without surprise. Too bad that when you count the panels are barely enough to power a bass. The rest is provided by the old and expensive fossil fuel-powered power plant.
The story that Gibbs wants to demonstrate is very simple: capitalism, with successful greenwashing operations (what an old expression) has eaten environmentalism.
And in fact, Planet of the Humans confirms what most of us have already thought: there can be no environmentalism without an overturning (or rather the end) of capitalism. The risk, looking at this documentary, is to raise your hands and say, “I give up, it’s all useless,” or regret the choices made, like covering the roof of the house with solar panels.
But immediately afterward, that feeling emerges that we all understand, as much as we don’t like it. We cannot sustain this rhythm of resource consumption, it will not be enough to look for alternative forms of energy, to find the Eldorado of “clean” energy. There is only one way: to reduce our consumption. First of all, we waste it, starting with food, the food we no longer value: the meat every day, the steaks at 4.99, sushi, the unripe mangoes wrapped in plastic at the supermarket; and then our consumption: the disposable trips, the cheap clothes we can wear a couple of times before they become rags.
Nobody likes to give up, but our generation’s life is light-years away compared to the 70s or even 80s. We should take this into consideration. This documentary is like an invitation to a more sober life, to reasoned behavior.
Or else a world pandemic comes to keep us all at home.
Planet of the Humans is available for a month on Youtube. In the video, there is the possibility to choose the subtitles in English and the quality of definition.
Edited by Michela Marchi
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