Issue - March 2009



March 2009

Editorial

Inside this edition: Sara Vinci give us an interview with Ramon Rocha Monroy; Christina Moore climbs the Bibliobus proposal in an article; Rebecca Wearmouth gives an view about 'An Inconvenient Truth' movie; the Bolivian Scare Crow by Arnold Brouwer; and finally Walter Sanchez tell us about Graphic historyread more...

March 2009

A Global Warning

An Inconvenient Truth is more than just a documentary. It is movie which inspired events such as Live Earth and is now being used as an educational resource in schools around the world. Its creators have won Academy Awards and a Noble Peace Prize. What’s inconvenient for Bolivia is that hardly anyone has been given the chance to see it.

Rebecca Wearmouth
Projects Abroad volunteer
Stockton - United Kingdom

What does global warming mean to you? Would you describe it as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated”, as US Senator James M. Inhofe did? Or do you believe it to be the most important issue facing our planet at the moment? Whatever your opinion, I think it would be unfair to make a decision without seeing An Inconvenient Truth, it is a movie that lays out the highly complicated issue of global warming in an understandable format. However, despite its obvious merits, An Inconvenient Truth only hadselect showings in cinemas throughout Bolivia; a shocking fact when you consider that the film is the fourthhighest- grossing documentary ever in the US, making forty-nine million dollars since its release in 2006, and has gone on to be used as an educational resource in schools in Argentina, Germany, Scotland, Spain and Canada.

Written by and starring former US vice-President Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth seeks to explain what global warming is, why it is happening, what its effects are and what can be done to prevent it. Surely of interest even to the most ardent of skeptics; after all, it is always interesting to know what the other side is saying. Gore gives a presentation, affectionately named “the slide-show”, which uses charts, data, videos and images to explain and argue his case. Throughout the movie, this “slide-show” is interwoven with the story of Gore himself and the events that led to him becoming such an advocate for action against climate change, including his loss in the 2000 US presidential election.

A politician delivering a speech on global warming may initially seem like an extremely boring concept for a film. However, Gore does not come across as a politician in this film; he is simply a man who is concerned about the condition of the planet on which he lives. As for being boring; the film’s relentless presentation of shocking facts and images provides more drama then countless other Hollywood films I have seen. Gore’s slide show cleverly uses both comedy (for example, a humorous explanation of global warming as taken from the cartoon Futurama) and tragedy (for example, images of the aftermath of Hurricane Catrina in New Orleans) to create a presentation which is enjoyable yet hard-hitting. Gore asserts that “there is no controversy about these facts” and uses highly convincing studies to support his argument. A significant example being a 2004 survey by Naomi Oreskes which found that, as Gore explains, “out of 928 recent articles in peer-review scientific journals about global warming, there was no disagreement. Zero.”

Though the subject matter of the documentary is highly serious and, at times, shocking, the film never becomes depressing. The audience is instead given a sense of empowerment as Gore insists that we should not “go from denial to despair” and that the first step towards combating global warming is acknowledging its existence. Gore believes that through action we, the human race, can make a change. Still a politician at heart, Gore sums up this belief by quoting Winston Churchill: “the era of procrastination, of half-measures of soothing, and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequence.”

So why has An Inconvenient Truth received so little exposure in Bolivia? One argument is that it lacks universality: that the film is targeted at a North American audience and thus will loose impact when shown to audiences from outside the USA, such as Bolivians.Gore isolates those from outside the US by referring to the USA as “our country” and asking what “we, as Americans,” can do to prevent global warming; not exactly a call to action for a Bolivian viewer. This is certainly the view of Adam Zeman, member of NGO Environment Americas, who argues that “audiences in Bolivia are going to leave thinking it’s not their problem, that there’s nothing they can do.”

I disagree with Zeman; although the movie is written by an American and thus, of course, holds a slightly more ‘American’ viewpoint; I do not think this is detremental to the film’s impact. Gore constantly emphasises that climate change is a global issue and that we, as a planet, must work together to combat it. This emphasis can be seen in the range of examples used to illustrate the effect global warming has already had: the melting of glaciers in Peru and Argentina, a hurricane hitting Brazil when scientists thought it wasn’t possible for hurricanes to occur in the South Atlantic, flooding in China and the melting of ice sheets in both the Artic and the Antarctic. Gore does not just look at what climate change means for America. It is clearly an issue which requires the involvement of the entire globe. The fact that An Inconvenient Truth is a “Hollywood” movie does not make it isolating to those from other cultures, far from it, it is precisley these “Hollywood” effects that give the movie its element of accessibility, making a complex and potentially dull topic entertaining. Hollywood is Hollywood for a reason, after all.

An Inconvenient Truth is clear and informative; it brings a highly complex issue to an understandable level. It is a film with a serious message but also a very positive message: that things can be better and that it is you that can make them better. Gore provides practical advice on how to combat climate change, ranging from something as simple as visiting the website www.climatecrisis.net to bigger commitments such as becoming carbon neutral. If you are in any way concerned about climate change, and even if you’re not, you should watch An Inconvenient Truth. It is the first step towards achieving a basic understanding of what climate change is and I think everyone has an obligation to know at least that much. As film critic Roger Ebert said of the movie: “In 39 years I have never written these words…You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.”

http://inhofe.senate.gov/pressreleases/climateupdate.htm, retrieved 2nd February 2009
www.gristmill.grist.org, retrieved 2nd February, 2009
www.rogerebert.suntimes.com, retrieved 4th February, 2009

POSING TO MAKE HISTORY

The possibility of a graphic or visual history of the past is important in present times. Although writing continues conserving its prestige in certain circles, it seems not to have the power of the image or audiovisual. Not only that, present generations often communicate through audio and visual means and so tend to learn about history not just from writing

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