Michael Moore has put his latest movie, “Planet of the Humans” free on YouTube. It’s directed and narrated by Jeff Gibbs (Moore is the executive producer) and is 1 hour and 40 minutes long: just right for quarantine watching. I have to admit that I haven’t yet seen it, but I surely will. (I regard watching videos, or television, as luxuries that induce in me a sense of guilt.) But what I gather is that—as with all Moore’s films—it’s Manichaean, and two of the villains here are the mainstream environmental movement and “green energy”. The lesson seems to be that we’re doomed unless we practice stringent population control.
Here are the YouTube notes:
Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary that dares to say what no one else will this Earth Day — that we are losing the battle to stop climate change on planet earth because we are following leaders who have taken us down the wrong road — selling out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America. This film is the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. It’s too little, too late.
Removed from the debate is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business. Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, “green” illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end—and we’ve pinned all our hopes on biomass, wind turbines, and electric cars?
No amount of batteries are going to save us, warns director Jeff Gibbs (lifelong environmentalist and co-producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine”). This urgent, must-see movie, a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows, is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.
Featuring: Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Richard Branson, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Vinod Khosla, Koch Brothers, Vandana Shiva, General Motors, 350.org, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Elon Musk, Tesla.
Music by: Radiohead, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Blank & Jones, If These Trees Could Talk, Valentina Lisitsa, Culprit 1, Patrick O’hearn, The Torquays, Nigel Stanford, and many more.
I’ve put some links to reviews below the video:
Rotten Tomatoes: Based on only a handful of reviews, this site gives the movie a critics’ rating of 80% and an audience rating of 70%.
Gizmodo says the movie starts out well, but then goes “full ecofacism”, by which the critic means “population control” An excerpt:
What’s most frustrating about Gibbs’ film is he walks right up to some serious issues and ignores clear solutions. The critique of the compromised corporate philanthropy model is legit. We should absolutely hold nonprofits to account when they don’t live up to their missions. But the solution isn’t to take the leap to population control. It’s to tax the rich so they can’t use philanthropic funding as cover for their misdeeds while simultaneously filling government coffers to implement democratic solutions.
The Guardian gives it four stars out of five, calling it “refreshingly contrarian”, but short on solutions:
Most chillingly of all, Gibbs at one stage of the film appears to suggest that there is no cure for any of this, that, just as humans are mortal, so the species itself is staring its own mortality in the face. But he appears to back away from that view by the end, saying merely that things need to change. But what things and how?
It’s not at all clear. I found myself thinking of Robert Stone’s controversial 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise, which made a revisionist case for nuclear power: a clean energy source that (allegedly) has cleaned up its act on safety and really can provide for our wholesale energy needs without contributing to climate change, in a way that “renewables” can’t.
Gibbs doesn’t mention nuclear and – a little lamely, perhaps – has no clear lesson or moral, other than the need to take a fiercely critical look at the environmental establishment. Well, it’s always valuable to re-examine a sacred cow.
The Hollywood Reporter gives it a basically neutral review with some criticism:
Planet of the Humans certainly makes many important and illuminating points, especially about the co-opting of environmental causes by corporate interests who use it mainly for positive branding purposes. But its despairing tone and overall atmosphere of purity testing may have the counterproductive effect of making you want to throw up your hands and ignore the environmental movement’s significant progress in recent decades. The loosely structured assemblage of damning information eventually proves more numbing than illuminating.
“Now, I know this all might seem overwhelming,” Gibbs tells us near the end of the film, and he’s right. His ultimate solution to what he describes as a “human-caused apocalypse” is to stem population growth. Presumably, a global pandemic isn’t what he had in mind.
Variety, though calling it “cluttered and ungainly”, recommends it nevertheless:
But that is the point, insofar as there is a clear one here: Gibbs says “the elephant in the room” isn’t climate change or any other individual factor, but humanity itself. With our species’ population having skyrocketed in the last 200 years, we are simply in denial that mankind’s needs are exhausting Earth’s resources. “Infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide,” he says, as bleak footage of rampant deforestation (in large part to supply the dubious “clean energy” source of biomass) provide just one vivid proof. There is no obvious solution, save a massive scaling-back that capitalism-driven societies don’t even want to think about.
There’s nothing particularly elegant about the way “Planet of the Humans” arrives at that downbeat thesis. Though well-shot and edited, the material here is simply too sprawling to avoid feeling crammed into one ungainly package even narrator Gibbs admits “might seem overwhelming.” Still, medicine is medicine, and if these 100 minutes leave a bitter taste, you’re still probably better off for having swallowed their dose of sobering awareness.
So watch it if you want, leave any comments below, and be aware that this isn’t light entertainment!