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‘11th Hour’ is a wake-up call


NARRATOR, NOT STAR: DiCaprio keeps the focus on the issues in '11th Hour.'
  • NARRATOR, NOT STAR: DiCaprio keeps the focus on the issues in '11th Hour.'

I'm not a film critic, at least not professionally or publicly. When asked to screen and review “The 11th Hour” — the new documentary on climate change produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio — I was a bit hesitant because of my lack of professional experience, but curiosity got the best of me. I work on climate change issues daily, but even I don't particularly like to be confronted with the images of what we're really facing. What we are facing is a challenge, but it's reality. And I recognize that this is the most important issue I could be devoting my life to.

I really liked “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary on climate change. Sure it had its minor flaws, but in my opinion, it did more to get the issue on the forefront of everyone's mind than anything else to date. It brought the message to the masses. “The 11th Hour” picks up where “An Inconvenient Truth” left off, engaging viewers with a continuous pattern of provoking thought, calling people to action through a number of ideas about reshaping human activity and how to get there from here.

Though “The 11th Hour” was produced and narrated by DiCaprio, the actor limits his time on camera, and lets the issue and experts be the focus (one of the great ego sacrifices in the environmental movement that I've witnessed in quite some time). The majority of the documentary is formed from the viewpoints of a number of scientists and experts from around the world, who cite the Industrial Revolution as the beginning point of our climate changing effects. As “The 11th Hour” points out, there is a clear relationship between the Industrial Revolution and an explosion in human population — which led directly to our current climate crisis. It's pretty striking when you think about it. In 1930, there were only 2 billion people on the earth. Today, the total approaches 7 billion people.

Since the age of industrialism, our consumptive behavior has reached a state of absurdity. America is a nation of hardcore consumers. We want what's new and we want it now. This documentary points out that our very economy is structured for consumerism. Growth is such a pretty, but deceptive word. Our economy is measured by growth. If it isn't growing, then it's determined to be failing. Everyone gets nervous, Wall Street panics, and it's officially defined as a “depression.” Why is this? Why don't we define a healthy economy as sustainable? Is there really no given point at which we as a nation can be satisfied with enough? The reciprocal affect leaves us where we are, as a nation and a planet in trouble.

There are some hard-to-face facts in the early parts of “The 11th Hour,” but you can't really sugar-coat an issue so serious. Overall, the documentary is honest about the situation, and experts like David Suzuki, David Orr, Lester Brown and others lend credibility to the documentary. They correct a number of myths and go on to explain that with existing technologies, we can reduce our human footprint by 90 percent. From calling for a change of national and corporate leadership, to explaining the power of consumers to touching on how we can vote with our dollars, the film left me inspired and motivated.

Before viewing the documentary, I worried that it would be too depressing for the average viewer and that it would cause a sense of helpless despair. I left the screening feeling more educated and motivated than anything. I returned to my office to convey the documentary to my friends and found myself almost lecturing on climate change. If this is the response from viewers, I believe “The 11th Hour” will be a huge success — an important contribution to a more encompassing education for the general public on climate change.

The documentary reminds us that we as consumers ultimately have control over the markets. If we don't buy it, they won't make it. If we demand it, they eventually make it available. I know it's been a little slow moving with things like fuel-efficient vehicles or products that both cost less and use less energy, but technology is expanding rapidly because we're demanding it.
“What a great time to be born and alive, because this generation gets to change the world,” says journalist Paul Hawken in “The 11th Hour.” What a positive way to look at such a daunting challenge. I know it left me following up with phone calls to my senators to encourage them to see this film and to work for sound national policy that will adjust our course on climate change.

Should we worry about the earth itself? I don't think so. It's all the living creatures on it that I'm worried about. Maybe the environmental movement has finally come full circle. Though we once laid down lives to save a tree, we've come to face the fact that the earth will be fine. It's humans we have to defend now.

Rob Fisher

Rob Fisher is the executive director and co-founder of ECO, a non-profit environmental action and habitat restoration group based in Little Rock. An adjunct professor with the Clinton School for Public Service, Fisher was recently named by Gov. Beebe to the Arkansas Climate Change Commission.

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