"If you love your planet, if you love your children, you have to see this film."
- from the trailer for "An Inconvenient Truth"
I like Al Gore. In fact, I voted for Al Gore. But keep reading anyway. This isn't about Al Gore. It isn't about right or left, conservative or liberal. It is about our planet's future and the power we have to change it - for better or worse.
Last month, I watched the DVD "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore's documentary about global warming. I watched for a number of reasons. I watched it because, as a card-carrying tree-hugger, it was good for me. I watched it because of the three standing ovations it received at the Sundance Film Festival. I watched it because I'd heard it was the third-highest-grossing documentary film in U.S. history. And like I said, I like Al Gore.
Nevertheless, I was prepared to have most of the science go way over my head. I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie, directed by David Guggenheim, tells the story in such a compelling way that I now believe everyone needs to see it. Everyone.
After losing the 2000 election, Al Gore re-set the course of his life to focus all of his passion (yes, passion!), time and energy to change people's minds about global warming. Throughout the film, he dispels myth after myth; he counters every argument with science.
Wikipedia defines global warming as "the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation into the future."
What is causing temperatures to rise? Scientists believe that one cause is the concentration of excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. CO2 is produced when we exhale, but more significantly when we burn fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil to make electricity and to power cars. Trees can neutralize the effect, but we are also clearing forests at record speed. Man's impact on the planet is out of balance with how fast the Earth can repair itself.
You don't have to take my word for it. Learn for yourself. See the film.
Here is some of what I learned that might illustrate the effects of global warming.
• The number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.
• Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, making refugees of approximately 100 million people worldwide.
• The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.
• The hottest 10 years on record have been in the past 11 years.
However, the movie does not just give us the bad news. It is hopeful about what individuals and lawmakers can do to turn the tide. However, we have to act quickly. We only have a window of about 10 years.
The AIT Web site, www.climatecrisis.net, allows you to calculate your personal impact on global warming. You input the make, model and year of your car; how many miles you drive per year; average power bills and similar data. The calculator tells you how you rate. More important, you can also see how small changes might improve your score. And no, we don't all have to drive electric cars, although a few more hybrids might be nice.
Here are some of the changes we can each make in our own lives, in our own homes to make a difference. Many of these will save money as well as the planet.
• Install a programmable thermostat. Set it two degrees lower in the winter and two degrees higher in the summer.
• When replacing cars and appliances, look for energy-efficient models.
• Buy food and goods produced locally. Support farmers
• Keep your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents.
• Wrap your water heater; use less hot water.
• Run your dishwasher only when it's full.
• Walk, bike, and carpool more often.
• Avoid heavily packaged goods.
• Insulate your home.
• Plant a tree.
We owe it to ourselves to become informed. Rent "An Inconvenient Truth," borrow it, buy it, but see it before you make up your mind about global warming. "It is not a political issue," Al Gore says, "It is a moral issue." It isn't about right and left, it's about right and wrong.
• Lorie Smith Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger Elementary School.