by David Cobb
Planet of the Humans debuted on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and has provoked widespread praise and criticism. Almost everyone in my circles either loves it or hates it, and I can see why.
The core premise of the movie is that our civilization is on the brink of collapse (if not actual extinction), and that “Big Green” mainstream environmental groups have been hijacked by corporate interests and are duping the general public into believing that we can solve this crisis using renewable energy.
On the one hand, I am deeply appreciative that filmmakers Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs are willing to state the obvious — infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide. They confront the severity of the ecological collapse, and expose the reality that allowing the billionaire class to “solve” this existential crisis simply won’t work. It’s too bad they are unwilling to be equally courageous and state that capitalism itself is unsustainable, and that we must transition to a solidarity economy framework in order to survive.
The film also highlights the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, which has helped shut down over 300 coal plants across the country. That seems great, but in short order we learn that the program’s biggest donor is billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who has helped to ensure that natural gas plants have replaced most of those shuttered coal plants. Bloomberg is making hundreds of millions of dollars on natural gas, arguing that it is a “bridge fuel.” That is absolutely false, and virtually every environmentalist and climate scientist acknowledges that inconvenient truth.
The film also exposes the ecological destruction and social violence being perpetrated across the global south associated with the production and distribution of lithium, and serves as a much-needed take down of biomass, pointing out that use of this so-called “green alternative” usually spews more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the coal plants it replaced.
But the film also has a lot of negatives. And I do mean a LOT.
One huge problem is that the film argues that solar and wind power are as problematic as biomass, and that is objectively, demonstrably false. For example, they claim that solar panels take more energy to produce than they generate over their lifetime. This claim (which originated by climate crisis deniers) has been frequently and thoroughly disproven.
In another scene co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, “You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you’re getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.”
Studies have proven that the lifetime carbon footprints of solar and wind power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas. Further, the energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively.
But the most egregious problem with this film is it’s tacit support of ecofascism, a merger of environmentalism with nationalism and white supremacy. The film erroneously concludes that the only solution is to “get rid of enough people.” While it is true that the human population is in overshoot, the cavalier manner that Moore and Gibbs approach the subject is grossly negligent. It’s no wonder that right wing mouthpiece Brietbart is praising the film.
I am not arguing that Moore and Gibbs are racist white nationalists. I am arguing that both what they say (and what they don’t say) feeds into a disturbing narrative of some of the most disgusting beliefs of the last 200 years, and they should know better.
It is too bad they missed the opportunity to share the good news that the simple solution to human overpopulation is to empower women and to promote family planning. Studies show that women with access to reproductive health services break out of poverty, and those who work are more likely to use birth control. Further, education about contraception has a huge impact.
Most disappointing of all is that they failed to interview any of the leaders of Just Transition, a vision-led movement that builds economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. If you are interested in learning how you can be part of this growing movement, contact us at Cooperation Humboldt.
David Cobb is a co-founder of Cooperation Humboldt and edits the Nexus column. If you are interested in learning more, or contributing to a future Nexus column, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a full list of sources used in this article visit yournec.org/planetofthehumans