Written by Robert Hunziker
Celebrating 50 years of Earth Day, Michael Moore, executive producer and the director Jeff Gibbs re-released their daunting and alarming documentary about the heart and soul of America’s Green Movement in a compelling film: Planet of the Humans (2019).
According to Michael Moore: “This is perhaps the most urgent film we’ve shown in the 15-year history of our film festival.” (Traverse City Film Festival)
Director Jeff Gibbs, a treehugger since birth, who has received high praise from the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall, has inspired countless thousands of people over the decades to protect indigenous cultures and ecosystems. He is one of a few “rare blessings” for the planet.
Planet of the Humans is a very, very important film. It’s an explosive exposé of the Greening of America, a must-see film especially for people who care deeply about the planet.
Solar, Wind, Biomass, 350.org, the Sierra Club, Chevy Volt, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Van Jones, Michael Bloomberg, and Goldman Sachs have cameo appearances in Gibbs’ eco documentary about “going green.” Especially true as it exposes new pathways to multifarious failings within a horribly misguided and vastly misrepresented Green Movement. It is well documented by Gibbs’ boots on the ground.
The film has one surprise after another gusto of actual events littered with scenes of hypocritical environmental big name heroes and billionaire buddies. Blatant examples of hypocrisy are exposed in scene after scene. Diehard environmentalists and hard core eco warriors are certain to be broken hearted!
The film has powerful impressions of the green movement, in some instances, successful, but in far too many others soured within a vortex of deceit and misguided principles sorrowfully awash in greed showered with sprinkles of enriched iconic personalities, like Richard Branson and Al Gore.
Once the curtain is pulled back, the brutal truth about green energy hits like a hard slap to the face. Early on in the film a massive “green solar concert” in Vermont purportedly “powered 100% by green solar and biomass” is phony. Hidden behind the stage, the lights and instrumentation is connected to the state’s electrical grid powered by coal, not solar, not biodiesel.
Moving on, the film encounters a Chevy Volt at a car show. Kristin Zimmerman of GM responds to a question: “What is charging the electric car?” She’s not sure but thinks maybe it’s natural gas.
Meanwhile, a bystander named J. Peter Lark of Lansing Board of Water and Light explains: “They’re charging the car off our grid which is about 95% coal.”
Back to GM’s Zimmerman, awkwardly smiling: “I don’t think coal is bad.”
Director Gibbs, frowning, suggests: “Mountain top removal?”
GM’s Zimmerman, stammering, not smiling, responds: “Oh, yeah, yeah…” holding hands out in a pushback expression of “we can’t have that!”
Which segues to a mountain top removal scene, but the mountaintop removal is to accommodate turbines for wind energy, not to mine coal. The scenario parallels wind turbines and mountaintop coal removal.
This film is full of surprises, especially for people that do not like getting their hands dirty, don’t hit the streets, or the back country, and thus do not experience real life scenes like the scenes throughout this invaluable film. In other words, cell phones and PCs research tools will never supersede the nitty-gritty value of experiencing the world in the flesh, in person like Jeff Gibbs.
During his travels, Gibbs encounters a hydrogen car exhibit that claims: “This car has a perpetual energy battery.” In turn, Gibbs asks where the hydrogen comes from. The reply by a representative of the hydrogen car company: “Hydrogen is sourced from any hydrocarbon material. So, ah-ah, you can get it from natural gas. You can get it from any petroleum oil-based product.” (Footnote: 90% of hydrogen fuel comes from fossil fuels) Hmm.
An underlying theme throughout the film is exposure of powerful interlinking connections between renewable energy and fossil fuels; effectively fossil fuel interests have “consumed the green movement” in various unorthodox ways, including the capture of name brand not-for-profit 501(c) orgs that “pretend” to reject fossil fuel interests. The film thus exposes a wholesale abandonment of ethical standards at the highest positions, although hidden from public view, inclusive of influential players in America’s celebrated Green Movement.
Along the way, ethanol production is exposed as dependent upon two things: (1) a giant fossil fuel based agricultural system to produce corn (whilst emitting tons of CO2) and (2) more fossil fuels (more CO2 emissions) in the form of coal and/or natural gas as significant quantities of fossil fuels are needed for direct production of ethanol, which is a massive, expensive complexity that supposedly “replaces fossil fuels.” Really?
Still, ethanol has a cameo appearance in the film compared to biomass as a renewable energy resource throughout the world. But, there’s a problem called “trees.” For example, when initially introduced in the film, Bill McKibben of 350.org fame, delivers a speech to a public forum wherein he insists upon “biomass to save the planet”; yet later in the film, when interviewed by Gibbs, he awkwardly tries to distance himself from the massive, destructive biomass force “taking down the world’s trees.”
Burning wood emits CO2, same as all fossil fuels. An equal amount of heat or electricity produced by coal or natural gas requires burning wood that emits more CO2 on a pari passu basis. Green energy? Wrong!
How long does it take a forest to regrow?
There are 2,000 biomass power plants in the world chopping down trees much faster than rates of regrowth. It’s insane. The southern United States is home to a manufacturing industry that clears forests, grinds the trees into wood chips, and is recognized as the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets, mostly to Europe. That’s stupid!
After all, forests enhance quality of life well beyond the experience of humans hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing. All species like native animals, plants, and other assorted species have nowhere to go once their habitat is destroyed.
Planet of the Humans ends on a similar note as the film shows a family of disoriented orangutans in a lonely barren tree in the middle of a vast open field cleared of forest cover.
There is no end in sight.