Documentary Review: “Planet of the Humans”

The first and last question of the climate crisis: How long do YOU think we humans have?

Cover shot for post re: "Planet of the Humans," a climate crisis documentary

Documentary Raises Green Energy Questions, Old and New

The profoundest of all the statements in the new documentary “Planet of the Humans” is the one left unspoken.

It comes in the final segment of the film, which was written, narrated and directed by self-proclaimed environmentalist and filmmaker Jeff Gibbs and produced by Academy-Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore. If the scene doesn’t leave you devastated, have someone check your pulse to make sure you’re actually a living, breathing and feeling human being.

Assuming you find proof of your humanity, then you’re also a being whose existence on planet Earth, a.k.a., “Planet of the Humans,” is intertwined with every other living thing. As such, your future existence depends on what we do to protect them, and ourselves, over the next decade.

Also intertwined in the film are highly recognizable figures in advocacy organizations that tout renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, as well as many individuals and companies that finance or run them.

Viewed through the lens of environmentalism, it seems at first viewing to be a horrific intermingling, indeed.

Gut-Check Time

“Planet of the Humans” will force people, especially environmentalists, to question many of the truths we’ve always believed to be self-evident, that “renewable” energy is intrinsically good, that the people leading the “green revolution” are beyond reproach, and that if we keep pushing we’ll figure out this climate crisis thing and be O.K.

The film’s power lies in its straight-forward look at how “renewables” actually come about, baseline causes of the climate crisis, and what it all means for the future of the planet. Gibb follows the realities of so-called “Green Energy” and connects the dots between renewables, the fossil fuels they depend on for viability and the people who benefit from the connections.

In the process, the film effectively and frighteningly raises several questions, old and new. Some it begins to answer but doesn’t quite close the deal. Others are left dangling from a couple of limbs on a dead tree in a clear-cut section of the Amazon rainforest:

  • Is much of what we’ve believed about alternative, renewable energy flawed?
  • Are the people who have been advocating for “Green Energy” been either seriously misguided, wrong or maybe even dishonest?
  • If so, where does that leave the human race?
  • What does it take to manufacture the machinery, equipment and devices that renewable energy relies upon for viability?
  • What about the core problems of overpopulation and overconsumption?
  • Where are we really headed?
  • Who is truly driving?
  • How quickly will we arrive at our final destination?
  • How final is “final,” anyway?

Along the way we see wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels plants. We meet academics like Richard York, an environmental sociologist at the University of Oregon, and Nina Jablonski, an anthropologist at Penn State University. We see or hear from villains like the Koch brothers, business titans like Richard Branson and, according to Gibbs, flawed environmental leaders like the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune, Bill McKibben and even former Vice President Al Gore. Greta Thunberg, who makes a brief cameo, seems the only environmentalist in “Humans” who isn’t at least partially compromised by the malicious nature of capitalism.

But Let’s Not Be Too Hasty

The documentary, released on YouTube on April 21, has been lambasted by groups and individuals, some of whom do not wind up looking like what they have always seemed.

On Friday, April 24, Films for Action, another venue for viewing “Humans,” removed the documentary from its site. But only for half a day, during which the organization was criticized heavily for censorship, and then Films for Action put “Humans” back up, with explanation.

The details are crucial to the discussion, and according to multiple sources many the details on renewables in the documentary are misleading or flat-out wrong.

Here’s a representative critique by Leah C. Stokes, a political scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Screen shot of @FilmsForAction Twitter post re: "Planet of the Humans," a climate crisis documentary

Be that as it may, the simple, core question that Gibbs begins “Humans” with remains clear and frightening:

How long do you think we humans have?

The documentary closes with the deafening silence of a scene that portends one of humanity’s possible futures.

The valid questions raised in between demand answers, and as noted previously, many of them already have them. In fact, Films for Action’s explanation provides a lengthy list of sources that refute what “Humans” presents. But others have been talking about the grains of truth to what Gibbs says and the dots he connects for a long time.

Regardless, for this self-proclaimed environmentalist, the film serves a few purposes. First, it’s a reminder that every “fact” needs to tracked down and verified. Second, truth can be nuanced. And, third, Gibb’s first question still needs to drive everything our species does and doesn’t do over the next decade, when the world begins to pass crucial climate change tipping points.

How long do you think we humans have?

“Planet of the Humans” is an engaging look at the climate crisis, renewable energy production and how it’s affected by capitalism. It’s well worth a cynical viewing.

Watch “Planet of the Humans” on YouTube.

 

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Author: Martin C. Fredricks IV

Martin C. “Red” Fredricks IV here. I’m 51 years old, husband to an amazing woman who is also my best friend, dad to three outstanding kids, Fargoan (North Dakota, that is), veteran messaging strategist/copywriter, blogger and big-time reader. (If you're gonna write good stuff, you have to read good stuff.) A ginger, too (ergo the "Red"). I enjoy hanging out with my wife, watching the kids in their academic and athletic activities, writing, hiking and riding my mountain bike.

2 thoughts on “Documentary Review: “Planet of the Humans””

  1. I would just like to point out that, there are several assumptions expressed in the movie that seem terribly negative towards Electric Vehicles, Wind Energy, and Solar Panels. I have a big beef with the fact that the movie discusses the intermittency of solar and wind inadequately, and mentioning efficiency numbers that are extremely low. For example, solar panels are nowadays typically warranted for 30 years of operation with a guarantee of maximum degradation up to 10% of rated output. In the movie they state solar panels to last 10 years!!! That is no longer the truth and has not been for quite a while.
    The Power Industry has for a long time had a solution to deal with the immediate need of available power through High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) loops. It has already been suggested to build a couple of continental HVDC power loops, that can reach all states of North America. It is a common proven technology, being used between countries in Europe e.g. Sweden – Germany – Denmark-Norway, UK – Ireland and so on. We also have such lines already in operation between Canada and Los Angeles, CA and interlinking the Mexican Grid with Southern California grid as well. For many years large Thyristor valves systems have been manufactured allowing AC substations to connect to these High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines. To see such inverter stations please go to this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC_converter_station. By utilizing HVDC and converter stations that would subsequently function as a large Ring Main Unit, we can then interconnect the HVDC loops around the country to the AC grid.
    This would mean that if the wind blows in Oregon, then the wind power generated could be shared through the HVDC loops over long distances and utilized by power grids in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida or any other State. If the sun shines in Arizona, that power could be used in any other state that is interconnected with the HVDC loops. This all costs money, and the immediate reaction is to shy away from the expense. But can we allow ourselves to do so? Can we afford to dos so? Just ask yourself; Who paid for the rural electricity network when it was first established? Take a guess!
    It is possible to rectify and invert electricity from solar and wind farms as the weather fronts move across the continent, typically from west towards east. Therefore, for a large part of the 24-hour cycle, renewable energies injected into the HVDC loops can supply the load.
    But what about the night loads you may ask? What about summer and winter, sunshine and wind?
    If you spread the generation over the continent, east will supply west and itself and west will supply east and itself. Add to that a few nuclear plants (I know this is heresy), and you will have your power problem solved. Technology can and will solve many of the issues, but of course not all. Population growth is a serious problem, and if it were up to me, I would motivate people not to have children (another heresy I guess). But there is not any way around the issue. Humans are spreading on the surface of the earth like bacteria in a petri-dish and this must be curtailed. If we just go on, with the same egocentric outlook on life, ruled by the everlasting demand of economic growth, then we will fail. Instead we must curb egoism and start to become more motivated to share natural resources and Re-use, Re-purpose and Re-cycle. Finally, don’t forget that 1 hour of sunshine radiates enough energy onto the surface of this earth, equivalent to 1 years energy use of the entire world! That energy is free and emits no CO2.
    I suggest that Ethics and Morals shall be taught and cultivated far better in the future. Happiness does not come from dying with the most materialistic “things”, but dying having experienced life and happiness together.
    May this corona virus end soon and all stay safe.

Let me know what you think!