‘11th Hour’
Eco-documentary offers informed hope for saving the planet

Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary, "The 11th Hour," is one of those rare environmental events that leaves you with far more hope than despair.

It presses home the critical danger of extinction that humans are facing, as the health of our natural habitat decays from overuse and pollution. It also makes it abundantly clear that solutions to such seemingly impossible problems as global warming and resource-depletion do not require a superhuman effort in technological innovation.

Most of the technologies we need already exist. But they're still on the shelf, waiting for what might prove to be superhuman acts of political will and conscience to put them to use.

As with Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," DiCaprio's film bypasses, as meaningless, the arguments of global-warming deniers as well as the corporations that fuel the world economy of over-consumption while creating in their wake not only suicidal pollution, but also the hell of abject poverty in the undeveloped world.

DiCaprio's film focuses more on solutions than diagnoses. It puts together some 50 of the world's top scientific, environmental and social thinkers. If anything is cause for hope, it is to hear the enormous intelligence and good will of such hard-nosed, practical idealists as physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, green economist Paul Hawkins, biologist David Suzuki and many more.

The heart of their collective solution is for us to wake up, comprehend the magnitude of what's taking place, consume less and more responsibly and campaign politically with a passion for conservation, nature-respecting renewable technologies and politicians of conscience and foresight who will work to give as many incentives to clean technologies as have been given to polluting ones.

Economic pragmatists know there is good money to be made from shifting the world economy to renewable energy, local agriculture and green manufacturing and to a steady-state, labor-intensive service ethic. There is as much money, in fact, to be made in positive change as there is in sullen and stubborn corporate intransigence.

DiCaprio's film is comprehensive, but it doesn't focus much on the concurrence of global warming with the depletion of world petroleum reserves, as we move ever-closer to peak production and then a precipitous decline.

Some 55 percent of the world's petroleum is used in transportation. It's closer to 67 percent in the United States. While coal-burning and other carbon sources remain massive problems, cutting back on the use of petroleum for transportation would not only help preserve oil reserves and ward off a worldwide depression of anarchic proportions, it could also make a big dent in global warming.

The specter of oil scarcity and the social calamities it could trigger are the worst way to reduce carbon emissions and catastrophic climate changes that one can think of - and yet, that seems to be the way we're heading.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
September 7, 2007