A lot has been written about Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ documentary Planet of the Humans. I wrote my own review of it here. There has been a lot of debate about the factual accuracy of some of the statements in the movie, but a lot of the criticism misses the point of the movie. That’s not entirely the fault of the critics. I don’t think Gibbs did as good a job of articulating his message as he could have. It’s there, but it’s not hard to miss it, especially if you are invested with mainstream environmentalism.
Gibbs was recently interviewed by an Italian communist magazine where I think he did a great job of explaining what the core message of the film was intended to be. In about 1500 words, Gibbs said better what I think he should have said in the movie. I’ve excerpted the interview below.
The bigger picture portrayed in our film is that civilization is hitting many limits, including resource depletion, soil depletion, deforestation, overexploitation of the oceans, biodiversity collapse, and, of course, climate change. Solving climate change alone will not save us—especially when the so-called solutions involve ramping up technologies that are decimating the biosphere and adversely affecting humans around the globe. Worse, these supposed green “solutions” involve getting into bed with bankers, industrialists, capitalists, and their “foundations.” Indeed nothing can make a difference unless we find a way to end our fatal addiction to economic growth while taking care of those who need it the most.
I began my journey exploring the mess we humans have created, and what might be the way out, over a decade ago. As I realized that the so-called “renewable” solutions were neither renewable nor solutions …
You criticize some of the most important and popular renewables. Is there any form of real green energy nowadays? Do you think it is possible to produce real green energy regardless of the mode of production?
“Green renewable” energy is neither green nor renewable. Sunshine and blowing wind might be renewable, but giant technological machines made to harvest the wind and solar are the opposite. That technology could ever be “green” or “renewable” is one of the greatest illusions ever. Technology comes from digging, blasting, mining, burning, smelting, refining, and manifold industrial processes. Technology consumes non-renewable resources, and emits toxins and pollution. No other options exist. There is no free pony for everyone. Switching from carbon based energy sources to so-called “renewables,” even if it was possible, increases our dependency on, and consumption of, non-renewable resources, hastening the demise of industrial civilization. The sun will keep shining and the wind will keep blowing long after our futile attempt to harvest them with hundreds of thousands of square miles of “green” technology collapses. There will never be “green” technological energy and fantasizing there could be says something about our desperation.
What do you think about nuclear energy?
… even asking the question “what about nuclear?” belies the erroneous assumption that somehow more energy would help “save the planet.” Unless we humans have an off switch, and begin to power down this global civilization, life on Earth is toast. Given more free magic “clean” energy of any kind, nuclear, solar, wind, tide, moonbeams, whatever—we humans will just use it to keep plowing, bulldozing, logging, mining, smelting, paving, polluting, plasticizing, building, overfishing, overhunting, and in general over-consuming our way through what remains of our living planet.
Your documentary demonstrates how the green movement has been infiltrated by big corporations. Which lessons do activists have to learn? What mistakes did they make?
When you get into bed with capitalists, bankers, billionaires, and their so-called non-profit foundations it is not them that changes—it’s you. Your vision gets stuck in time and larger truths get buried. The revolution will not be funded by those who profit from the status quo. When you compromise to get a “win”— you lose. Everyone loses. Slowly but surely the capitalists have turned the environmental movement to a narrow focus on climate change and the supposed solution of green energy because it’s a $50 trillion dollar profit center. And off the table, even as some environmental leaders give it lip service, is ending our addiction to perpetual economic growth (green or otherwise) on a finite planet.
Should the more conscious and radical activists engage in environmental movements to change them from the inside or are there better places and ways to conduct this battle?
Good question. I think the most important thing is to have the correct vision. This is way bigger than a climate emergency, as dire as climate is. Our entire industrial civilization of seven going on eight billion humans is coming to a close. We either get ahead of the now emerging civilization and biological collapse or suffer the most extreme consequences. Non-human species are already suffering the most extreme consequences across the globe.
What do you think about Greta Thunberg Friday for future movement?
I think Greta Thunberg has some incredible insights. That young people are using the word extinction is a real breakthrough. My fear is the same as for all sincere, motivated, authentic activists young and old. When we focus on climate change only as the thing destroying the planet and we demand solutions, we get used by forces of capitalism who want to continue to sell us the disastrous illusion that we can mine and smelt and industrialize our way out of this extinction event. …
In closing I want to be clear I am a very hopeful person. What hope we have comes from living in reality, not fantasies that giant industrial solar and wind harvesting machines, or “clean” nuclear or fossil fuels for that matter, will “save the planet.” The planet has zero interest in yet one more scheme of domination and control by humans. Now, while we still have blue whales and redwoods, songbirds and butterflies, it is a fine time to come to grips with the only hope we have: either less is the new more, or we’re going on the scrap heap of failed civilizations taking everything down with us.
One thought on “What Jeff Gibbs Should Have Said in ‘Planet of the Humans’”
It must be made clear that if we suddenly found a new energy source with say a magical EROEI of 400:1 or something ridiculuous, and it was freely available to everyone, COGIC (collapse of global industrial civilisation) would happen even faster. Mainly because of the pollution caused.
The Limits to Growth book showed this clearly in one of their calculations. Sure, the population curve is different, but the outcome is the same.
Evidence of this. If we look at WW2, it was an era, in effect, of unlimited energy use. Market forces weren’t a limiter, and governments could burn as much energy as they could as quickly as possible. So if you like, it was an example of what would happen if we free access to large amounts of energy.
Not well known is that 1947 saw worldwide droughts, with harvests reduced by a third to half in many countries. It was only surpluses from the US, still on wartime levels of food production aided by fertilisers, that prevented mass starvations. It could be coincidence, or did the rapid burning of so much energy in WW2 lead to a mini-heating spike that caused the droughts?
LikeLiked by 1 person