by Amalthea Aelwyn
A few of you have asked me for my perception of the new Michael Moore film.
Here is my perception.
There is so very much wrong with the climate movement. It is steeped in abelism it has mostly not even begun to address, still deeply struggling and largely failing to deal with its racism problem, and it is rife with the failure to be sustainable or regenerative itself in terms of how it handles the people and technologies and needs, focusing too much on begging politicians for change, having cute break out groups and hand wringing, and not enough on being change on the ground in ways that are possible now. One example is how hard I have to work to get people engaged with permaculture models of food growing.
There are many problems, but this movie basically ends up carrying water for climate denialism more than helping to improve the climate movement. It’s unfortunate that while it has some important points, many of them miss the real problems with the climate movement or address problems it had between 10 and 20 years ago. Yes, the movement is broken in places. Yes, we definitely have a capitalism problem. But one of the ways it is broken is the expectation of perfectionism, but without the real big picture integrated systems thinkers or the most harmed being centered. And this movie does neither.
I feel like if you’re going to make a movie like this, you have a responsibility to make an accurate and current movie like this, and that you do not just drop everything on the floor as soon as you bring it up.
It doesn’t actually help us to change as people to just know everything has problems. I mean that’s sort of endemic of our larger culture overall. Can you name anything about which that isn’t true? And yes, I am utterly down for the indictment of capitalism, overall, but let’s indict it with its actual current facts, not with its historic failings almost entirely. And let’s talk about some beginnings to solutions.
Why does this film not talk about the need to educate girls and women about climate change, family planning and contraception at mass scale? Why does it allow itself to be more of the idiotic “well, but you’re not pure, so you’re not making progress” mess that is part of denialism, rather than talking about the difficult tension of literally every civil rights movement, wherein we must use the tools of a currently broken model to somehow manifest a less broken model, and that is just painfully hard to do.
No, I don’t believe technology will be the lion’s share of saving us. But this movie isn’t really part of it either. There is not really a point to butchering sacred cows to just leave them to rot on the ground. Do something with whatever you sacrifice on the altar to change, or you’re just as wasteful as what got us into this mess.
It’s not news that there is hypocrisy in everything. Why can’t we talk about, as a culture, how to deal with that conflict, and how to talk about it intelligently, rather than as more meaningless indictment. That really is our cultural disease. We have normalized sociopathy and narcissism to such an extent that finding our way back from that is really damn hard. All the money we need is in the hands of the people using it for harm. All of it is tied up in money when it needs not to be, in order to make progress. Progress is measured in dollars, not in success, but rather than really having that conversation about our cultural underpinnings, proposing any path forward, or even helping us learn to face and deal with grief, this film ends up carrying water for the climate change denialists who would rather we just drop the whole thing.
And it does that job badly, and with 20 year old information, all too often. I want this to be the movie we need. But instead, it is part of our call-out-but-don’t-fix-shit culture of centering not solutions, but just ourselves and our complaining.
So how many of you are going to join me in a growing project? How many of you are working to teach girls family planning? How many of you are working on solving that women are being sacrificed to energy efficiency in building projects that encourage mold-harboring materials and VOCs that are endocrine disruptors? Yes, let’s do something. Let’s stop begging politicians and working on election cycles so extensively, and start creating change on the ground. But maybe without calling each other hypocrites for our imperfections, and maybe with more honest self reflection. And certainly, with more intersectionality and less cute break out groups.
That’s where I am, personally.