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Wednesday, July 04, 2007
AIT book review so far
An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It.
That's the full title of the book I've been working on. I'm about half way right now, so this is my thoughts on it so far.
First, I feel the need to describe the book itself. It's rather different from the others I've been reading. At about 7"x9" and an inch thick, it's a fairly large book. I got to the halfway mark quickly, though, since it's mostly graphics, colour & black and white photos (plus there's a neat little window, where you can see a photo of the earth through the cover). It's even got fold out pages. For the size of the pages and the thickness of the book, there's not a whole lot of text. Lots of blank space. As far as I can see, this book is Gore's slide show in print form - I recognize many of the graphics and charts from the clips of the movie I've seen - plus some extra personal comments and anecdotes from Gore. With so many non-text elements, this was clearly a very expensive book to print and make.
I am trying very hard to read this with an open mind. It's rather difficult. The rest of the family is noticing my aggravated noises as I read. *L* I've had the odd urge to toss it off the balcony a few times. But read it, I will.
My thoughts so far:
One of the first things you learn in this book is that Al Gore is a Really Great Guy. You know this, because he uses a great deal of the limited text in this book telling you all the wonderful things about him. You also know he's really Down To Earth and relate-able because his son was in an accident and almost died.
You also learn that:
The Clinton/Gore administration = Good. Clinton/Gore did great things about the environment. They would've done more and better things, if they hadn't been deliberately blocked by Congress. If they were still in office, the Kyoto agreement would've been signed by the US. I guess he has a short memory.
Congress = Bad. Because they deliberately stood in the way of all the great things Clinton/Gore would've accomplished.
The Bush/Cheney administration = Evil. The moment Bush got into the Oval Office, he proceeded to dismantle all the good environmental things Clinton/Gore had ever done. Bush is responsible for all the evils on the earth today.
The Earth is about to be destroyed, and it's all our fault. And the US's fault. It's everyone's fault except Gore because Gore, out of the goodness of his heart, is making sure we know we're destroying the earth. And, because he's such a Really Great Guy, he's going to tell us how we can save the earth. We just have to listen to him and do everything he says.
... and all this by the end of the introduction.
I'm trying really hard not to be sarcastic. I dislike sarcasm, but as I read what I've written, it does sound very sarcastic. It's not my intention. That's exactly how it felt as I was struggling to read through the 4 page introduction. It was also filled with inaccurate statements, but that's another issue.
I also tried really hard to empathize in regards to his son's accident. As any parent, I can totally understand something like that being a life changing event. But just how many times does he have to refer back to it? Instead of being empathetic, my bulls***t meter started going off.
Ok. Try to read it with an open mind.
Once past the introduction, the book reminds me in many ways of a children's book. Lots of pictures. Two page spreads with nothing but black background, a quote in huge text and a brief credit and comment on the quote in a corner. Interspersed are personal stories about Gore's childhood, his parents, and more references to his son's accident, which he eventually describes in detail, together with a highly emotional and colorful description of how he felt when it happened before his eyes. He eloquently writes about the influence his parents had on him, as well as one of his mentors, Roger Revelle.
As I mentioned before, there are lots of charts and graphs and scientific looking information. This is what usually had me grumbling out loud. Many of them completely contradict information I've seen from other, highly reputable, sources. Others are absolutely wrong, such as his blaming hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes, floods, monsoon - all major weather events, actually, on global warming. Hurricane experts had been saying even that year that Katrina couldn't be blamed on global warming.
By the time I got close to the middle of the book, a glaring omission finally came to my notice. For the most part, the text simply says things in a "this is what's happening, this is why" format, in as few words as possible. Other than that, there's a lot of "scientists say," or "scientists agree that..." phrasing.
There are, however, no references. No footnotes. There are absolutely no sources listed. In contrast, every single book I've been reading that run counter to what Gore has been saying in AIT is riddled with references. Indexes and bibliographies at the back list many resources for the questioning reader to look up themselves, if they wish. Some of them had lists of resources as long as some chapters.
That's when it occurred to me. There are no references because this book (and movie) is not a book of science. It is a book of emotion. It is a passionately and eloquently written book, with nothing to back up its claims. The reader is expected to accept everything at face value.
This realization is deepened by the constant references to the "moral" thing to do, and other evocative, even religious, terms. I can easily see why people call him the "Goracle," and why followers have such religious zeal. Gore is set up to be a modern day messiah, here to save us from our eco-sins. There's also heavy use of words like crisis, disaster, emergency, and similarly fear inducing terms.
Oh, and I did skip to the very end, where Gore tells us how we can save the earth. Most of them are pretty basic, common sense recommendations, most of which I'm already doing, some of which don't even apply for my family (ie: we don't have a car, so no related recommendations apply to us). Space is also given to directly respond to common "misconceptions" on global warming. Again, no references or footnotes. It's just Al Gore saying "I'm right, they're wrong," with a heavy feel of "anyone who believes this is stupid and irresponsible." I'm familiar with all of these "misconceptions." I'm also familiar with the reasons for these "misconceptions." To me, these are not misconceptions at all, but rather legitimate reasons to question Gore's claims and his claims of "scientific consensus."
I have to admit that, had I not had the background information and experiences that I have, this book would probably scare the s*** out of me. It would probably turn me into an activist. I'd probably be out there on the streets in demonstrations because of what I'm reading there.
Because this book accomplishes what I believe is the ultimate goal, and that is to evoke fear and alarm in the readers; to terrify the readers so much, they'd be ready to do whatever Gore tells them to. This book is pure emotion dressed up to look like science.