A new film produced by documentarian Michael Moore is angering environmental activists who say filmmaker Jeff Gibbs plays fast and loose with the facts, attacks the wrong targets, and even ends up arguing for ecofascist solutions to the climate crisis.
"Throughout, the filmmakers twist basic facts, misleading the public about who is responsible for the climate crisis," wrote University of California Santa Barbara professor Leah Stokes of the film for Vox.
"We are used to climate science misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel corporations," she continued. "But from progressive filmmakers? That's new."
Michael Moore's new climate film is full of misinformation about clean energy and climate activists.
Given the film’s loose relationship to facts, I’m not even sure it should be classified as a documentary.
— Leah Stokes (@leahstokes) April 28, 2020
In "Planet of the Humans" (POTH), Gibbs focuses on what he sees as the false promises of renewable, green energy solutions to the climate crisis and a dismissal of the climate activist movement as the hurdles for decisive action to address the crisis.
Climate science writer Ketan Joshi, in a scathing review of the film, wrote that the film's "outright lies about wind and solar are serious and extremely harmful."
"Wind and solar aren't just technological tools with enormous potential for decarbonization," wrote Joshi. "They also have massive potential to be owned by communities, deployed at small scales with minimal environmental harm, and removed with far less impact on where they were than large power stations like coal and gas. They do incredible things to electricity bills, they decentralize power (literally and figuratively), and with more work they can be scaled up to properly replace fossil fuels."
Thank you for writing this. It is truly demoralizing how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change. There are important critiques of an environmentalism that refuses to reckon with unlimited consumption + growth. But this film ain't it. https://t.co/BmO7ABsIhZ
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) April 26, 2020
Heated newsletter writer Emily Atkin, in a post enumerating questions on the film for Gibbs and Moore, wondered why POTH avoids backing up its claims on energy.
"This movie repeatedly claims that humans are better off burning fossil fuels than using renewable energy," said Atkin. "But it also fails to cite any peer-reviewed science on lifecycle emissions, which show the cumulative impact of different renewable energy sources. Why?"
In a more disturbing move, Gibbs promotes population control as the best answer to the warming of the planet.
"There's a reason that Breitbart and other conservative voices aligned with climate denial and fossil fuel companies have taken a shine to the film," Earther's Brian Kahn wrote last week. "It's because it ignores the solution of holding power to account and sounds like a racist dog whistle."
That sentiment was echoed by Joshi, who noted that the film's emphasis on prioritizing white American voices was in line with its argument on population control.
"The film features a parade of—solely—white Americans, mostly male, insisting the planet has to reduce its population," wrote Joshi. "There is no information provided on which people in the world need to stop fucking, but we can take a guess, based on the demographics of the people doing the asking."
Films for Action, in a post on POTH, said that while questions of population growth are "complicated," the movie's proposal of poulation degrowth does not acknowledge those complexities.
"It's true we can't keep growing forever, in the same way we can't keep consuming the Earth forever, but in high-consumption countries, populations are already declining, and in areas where populations are still growing, the 'impact on Earth' is still low compared to the impact of 'rich' nations," the group wrote. "The truth is, pinning our problems on population lets industrial capitalism off the hook—what Daniel Quinn called the culture of maximum harm."
POTH has also been criticized for its treatment of climate activists. As Stokes wrote for Vox, the timing of such an argument seems counterproductive to solving the climate crisis.
"Perhaps the most insulting thing is that this film comes at a time when the youth climate movement is finally gaining momentum," wrote Stokes. "Young women like Greta Thunberg and Varshini Prakash have helped climate change break into the mainstream. Rather than bolster the work of the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, or Zero Hour, it undermines these activists' achievements by sowing confusion and doubt."