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Repent—The End Is at Hand

Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg, decrying the indulgence racket of a corrupt Church. Michael Moore, who despite the resemblance, is no Martin Luther, attempts something similar in 95 minutes of documentary bluster, aiming his invective at the high church of Environmentalism. Planet of the Humans is an exposé—a clarion call to the faithful, perhaps—that purports to reveal a squalid coterie of promoters of lies about green energy. And to a large extent, it is successful—demonstrating that the kind of green-energy penances we have been trained to accept to “save the earth” are empty at best or, worse, counterproductive.

Let me preface this by noting that an even moderately favorable review of a Michael Moore documentary was not, shall we say, a realistic expectation of mine. But here it is: a moderately favorable review. The style in Planet of the Humans is vintage Moore: gallingly smug, rife with misleading edits, plagued with poorly researched loose ends that bolster simplistic demonizations. Predictably Mooreish propaganda. All the same, he can be credited with calling a bluff: most of what we’ve been told about the environmental benefits of “green” energy is, to quote a favorite phrase in the film, “bullshit.” Not that this is any deep revelation—it’s the sort of thing people like Matt Ridley, Michael Shellenberger, and Andrew Morriss have been saying for years. But this time the revelation is coming from deep within the fold of the Left, and this alone makes the film worth watching.

Moore (or more accurately, Jeff Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner, his sometime partners in crime) sets out to peel back the fatuous mask of vested self-interest, doing so with his typically agonizing, cringeworthy finesse. Instead of corporate bigwigs (Roger & Me), gun owners (Bowling for Columbine), or healthcare providers (Sicko), the target is the Green Establishment and its promoters of glittering solar arrays, platinum blonde wind turbines, and silky-smooth electric cars. Erstwhile heroes of the ecosphere like Bill McKibben, Robert Kennedy, Van Jones, and Al Gore come across so decidedly venal that it’s almost comical.

According to the film’s promoters, it is “. . . the wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face, . . . that techno-fixes and band-aids” are not only not sustainable but often downright counterproductive. Wind energy? Decidedly inefficient and a major contributor to industrial waste. Solar? A landscape gobbler and subsidy sponge that makes a few highly connected billionaires into multi-billionaires. Biomass? Intensely polluting while requiring the felling of entire forests. Electric Cars? Coal-fired transportation masquerading as an eco-friendly alternative. And so on. The solar plant at Ivanpah, the Green Mountain windmill farm in Vermont, biomass generators apparently everywhere—all of them come under close scrutiny and do not come away unscathed.

The film asks, “Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, ‘green’ illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end—and we’ve pinned all our hopes on biomass, wind turbines, and electric cars?” Are we desperate to accept “anything green” on the slimmest of credentials merely because it comes packaged with the right buzzwords? After the dawning realization that all of what he believed about green energy was fabricated or exaggerated, Gibbs says it poignantly enough: “Wait . . . I felt like my head was going to explode.”

But Moore’s real enemies, lest we imagine some Road-to-Damascus moment, are his usual ones: capitalism and human beings. A description of the film conspiratorially says:

Removed from the debate [over environmentalism] is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.

The film, then, is essentially a screed against the “takeover of environmentalism by capitalism.” The cast of villains is still (predictably) the Koch Brother[s], big business executives, and tough-looking security goons. The difference this time is that Planet of the Humans adds many of the darlings of the environmental establishment to the rogues’ gallery. The high priesthood of pure eco-consciousness has been tainted, we are told, by the omnipresent profit motive. Filthy lucre has suffused the hallowed halls of environmental do-goodism, and only a return to a purer, misanthropic past can prevent spiritual decay and Armageddon. By minute 46 we are presented with the inescapable conclusion: “population” is the problem, and reining in human impact, preferably through a “major die-off,” is the only answer.

The radical elements of the Left are so far removed from their mainstream allies that they’ve come to see their fellow progressives as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

The film isn’t all gloom, of course. Moore & Co. are clever enough to recognize the power of humor. What makes the film emotionally effective (as in all of Moore’s films), is its use of bathos: moving unpredictably from the comically trivial to the tragically imperative. One moment we chuckle at camera-toting trespassers cheekily turning down a roaring security guard’s offer to “chat,” and the next moment we are brought to tears with footage of orangutans scrabbling through a cut-over wasteland.

Ozzie Zehner, as virtual tour-guide, presents an affable, sensible, and even cheerful recurring camera presence (in contrast to Gibbs’ dour voiceover). In a vignette that highlights the internal contradictions within the green community, he says he is sometimes seen as the enemy of progressives merely for pointing out the inconsistencies in what are deemed “sustainable solutions.” After carefully describing the chemistry and industrial processes of making solar panels, he gets a hearty ironic laugh: “The funny part is, when you criticize a [solar] plant like this, you get accused of working for the Koch Brothers.” One can’t shake the conviction that the filmmakers, like all gadflies, have become addicted to the taste of blood, and allies will do as well as enemies.

Perhaps the most revealing and introspective thrust of the film arrives midway. Gibbs muses aloud: “the Right has religion, could we have a religion we didn’t know about?” He goes on in this vein, stoking a lapsarian flame by wondering if we are “poised for a fall from an unimaginable height.” The implied remedy to this fall from grace is a “radical” turn away from capitalism. Coming from Moore at least, who is purported to be worth $55 million, this seems a bit rich. How much of the clever editing excoriating the wealthy was done in Moore’s 10,000 square-foot Torch Lake home? Or his Manhattan apartment complex? Or any of his other eight homes? It is, of course, irrelevant, but for someone who spends a great deal of time revealing moral conflicts of interest, Moore seems surprisingly insulated from deep introspection. Planet of the Humans is Luther selling indulgences.

The film reveals a distinct warp in the modern Left: the radical elements are so far removed from their mainstream allies that they’ve come to see their fellow progressives as part of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Environmental policy professor Leah Stokes laments the film’s twisting of basic facts: “We are used to climate science misinformation campaigns from fossil fuel corporations. But from progressive filmmakers?” So yes, in a way it’s refreshing to see Moore’s lens pointed at glib, self-satisfied elites on the other end of the spectrum for a change. I’d wager, however, that Planet of the Humans won’t be shortlisted for an Oscar like his other films.

It’s still essentially unfair though—like all the best propaganda, it has enough truth behind it to keep it propped up and presentable, but like Stalin’s corpse in the Hall of Columns it lacks a certain conviction. Moore & Co. never really give either the technologies or the people working on them a fair shake. YouTube’s Now You Know does an effective partial debunking, rightfully pointing out that (for instance) solar has come a long way since the initial filming and panels can be mounted on roofs, instead of enormous farms. But green progressives’ testy rebuttals to Moore’s film tend rather to emphasize the film’s premise (that “green” will brook no dissent) while simultaneously ignoring real, constructive options for a cleaner energy future. Neither the film nor its lefty detractors spend a single minute discussing new-generation nuclear, for instance, a viable and effective alternative both to the “legacy” energy industry as well as the ineffective “green” one.

This leads us to the film’s biggest failing, which is its fundamental misperception of humanity’s impact on the planet. Suggesting vows of poverty as absolution for the sins of an “out of control” species is both demeaning and unlikely to gain traction. Yes, a great deal can and should be said about our collective, consumptive habits. A great deal more could be said about harnessing human creativity and goodwill toward prosperity and environmental stability.

As provocative dramatization, Planet of the Humans fits the Moore template and therefore serves its purpose. As serious and constructive analysis, however, it doesn’t offer much. It has revealed many of the shams behind green energy, and for that it is to be commended. Perhaps Moore & Co. honestly believe that this film will be a call to the faithful toward a more ascetic form of eco-worship. It worked for Luther, after all. But I sincerely doubt Planet of the Humans will accomplish this—those who live (handsomely) by skewering other people’s sacred cows may find themselves friendless and alone.

Reader Discussion

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on August 28, 2020 at 07:40:29 am

I always learn things I am incapable of thinking of when a Michael does a film. I learned in Fahrenheit 911 that when the poor have friends it is the circle of life and when the rich have friends it is a conspiracy. I completely understood when a Michael realized Trump would win. Just because Michael has thinking pattens alien to mine does not mean he is ignorant of the facts. The authors thesis on Luther selling indulgences is a gestalt I have imagined also. That Michael Moore was the artist projecting this is quite amusing. Thanks for the commentary.

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Theresa Kahle
on August 28, 2020 at 12:15:29 pm

Of course corporate support of BLM is likewise about indulgences.

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cmcc_aus
on August 28, 2020 at 10:07:46 am

Michael Moore is too full of himself--and to leftist--to take seriously. The author makes the mistake of cherry picking things Moore says that fit his own biases without considering that Moore here is just as wrong about things as he has always been. The truth is that solar, wind, and nuclear are all better energy options than coal and oil. In the Southwestern U.S. solar electricity + battery storage for night generation is selling for around $22 per megawatt hour (MWh), whereas the old coal plants in the area are producing electricity that costs a whopping $80 per MWh. Natural gas generation comes in at around $60 per MWh. As for "land gobbling," solar can be placed on top of the built environment, homes, businesses, factories and warehouses. Those who oppose solar based on old arguments that are no longer valid, are in actuality, supporting policies that not only pollute more, but also increase your electricity bill. Moore is simply anti-capitalism, no matter what the breakthrough is, if it generates profit and wealth, he will oppose it. Don't fall for his nonsense.

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David Jenkins
on August 28, 2020 at 11:20:04 am

“Removed from the debate [over environmentalism] is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”

“Planet of the humans”, like “Planet of the apes”, are similar in that they both, deny that only human persons can be Called to live in relationship as husband and wife, Through The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

No doubt, Michael Moore would welcome a virus that, in “getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption”, would serve to lock down the healthy, while exposing the most vulnerable, the elderly in nursing homes and those beloved sons and daughters residing in their mother’s womb only to await their own fatality, because they believe the real virus is overpopulation,
and that “harnessing human creativity and goodwill toward prosperity and environmental stability”, cannot be achieved without a reduction in human beings.

But the debate about environmentalism in the hands of the atheist materialist over population alarmist globalist was never about serving The Common Good, or serving Christ, for in Christ, human life is Sacred. No, the real issue is and continues to be about the desire of those who deny that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, to create a “god”, in their own image, and a globalism that, in defining what is good and what is evil sans The Word Of God, will have no need for our Savior to begin with.

We can know through both our Catholic Faith and reason, that it has always been the same old story, albeit, with a new cast of characters, who are constantly recycled with The Winds of Time.

Love requires that we “Sanctity The Lord Christ, in our hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you”, and that would include being willing to use The Charitable Anathema for the sake of all those who profess to be in communion with Christ, while promoting and affirming sin that serves to undermine He Who, Through The Sacrament Of The Cross, Pours Out Perfect Life-affirming and Life-sustaining Salvational Love, to all those who desire to repent, convert, and believe in The Power And Glory Of Perfect Love, leading others astray.

The Good News Is, although we know not the day or the hour, we can rest, assured that The Gates Of Hell will not prevail, for The Power And The Glory Of The Integral Essence Of The Sacrament Of The Cross, The Sacrifice Of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, “Will Make All Things New Again.”

There Is No Greater Love Than Desiring Salvation For One’s Beloved, Through The Sacrifice Of The Cross, The Sacrifice Of Life-affirming And Life-sustaining Perfect Complementary Love, Through Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

“Wherever sin abounds, Grace abounds even more”, but not in union with sin, for Grace serves in opposition to sin. Sin is the absence of Love, and serves to undermine all that is Beautiful, True, and Good, That Flows From The Ordered Communion Of Perfect Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Sacrifice Of The Cross, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

“Hail The Cross; Our Only Hope.” Amen.

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Nancy
on August 28, 2020 at 11:31:10 am

Orienting ourselves to Christ, can never lead us astray, only condoning and affirming sin, which is devoid of Love, can separate us from Christ. Least there be any confusion, that should read:

“Removed from the debate [over environmentalism] is the only thing that MIGHT save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not THE issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”

“Planet of the humans”, like “Planet of the apes”, are similar in that they both, deny that only human persons can be Called to live in relationship as husband and wife, Through The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

No doubt, Michael Moore would welcome a virus that, in “getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption”, would serve to lock down the healthy, while exposing the most vulnerable, the elderly in nursing homes and those beloved sons and daughters residing in their mother’s womb only to await their own fatality, because they believe the real virus is overpopulation,
and that “harnessing human creativity and goodwill toward prosperity and environmental stability”, cannot be achieved without a reduction in human beings.

But the debate about environmentalism in the hands of the atheist materialist over population alarmist globalist was never about serving The Common Good, or serving Christ, for in Christ, human life is Sacred. No, the real issue is and continues to be about the desire of those who deny that God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, to create a “god”, in their own image, and a globalism that, in defining what is good and what is evil sans The Word Of God, will have no need for our Savior to begin with.

We can know through both our Catholic Faith and reason, that it has always been the same old story, albeit, with a new cast of characters, who are constantly recycled with The Winds of Time.

Love requires that we “Sanctity The Lord Christ, in our hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you”, and that would include being willing to use The Charitable Anathema for the sake of all those who profess to be in communion with Christ, while promoting and affirming sin that serves to undermine He Who, Through The Sacrament Of The Cross, Pours Out Perfect Life-affirming and Life-sustaining Salvational Love, to all those who desire to repent, convert, and believe in The Power And Glory Of Perfect Love.

The Good News Is, although we know not the day or the hour, we can rest, assured that The Gates Of Hell will not prevail, for The Power And The Glory Of The Integral Essence Of The Sacrament Of The Cross, The Sacrifice Of The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Unity Of The Holy Ghost, “Will Make All Things New Again.”

There Is No Greater Love Than Desiring Salvation For One’s Beloved, Through The Sacrifice Of The Cross, The Sacrifice Of Life-affirming And Life-sustaining Perfect Complementary Love, Through Christ, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

“Wherever sin abounds, Grace abounds even more”, but not in union with sin, for Grace serves in opposition to sin. Sin is the absence of Love, and serves to undermine all that is Beautiful, True, and Good, That Flows From The Ordered Communion Of Perfect Love, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, Through The Sacrifice Of The Cross, In The Unity Of The Holy Ghost.

“Hail The Cross; Our Only Hope.” Amen.

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Nancy
on August 28, 2020 at 11:43:18 am

Well-written with thorough explication, educated insight and fun wit. Everything a good movie review should have.

Thanks for the entertainment without the viewing time. And, most of all, thanks for the pleasure of knowing that the Enviro-Whackos are now devouring their own. Let's hope it's a moveable feast.

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paladin
on August 28, 2020 at 12:23:44 pm

Rarely is the reader treated to humor in the thesis of an essay: “A great deal more could be said about harnessing human creativity and goodwill toward prosperity and environmental stability.”

However, Schwennesen did not offer a remedy. I suggest activation of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution (the U.S. Preamble). It is in every citizen’s self-interest to develop his or her individual interpretation of the people’s proposition by which to manage civic, civil, legal, and private living.

Last evening, President Trump, was unapologetic in his allegiance to “Almighty God.” Soon thereafter, he said, “under God” will never be removed from the pledge, but the DNC had eliminated it. It seems the DNC tolerates the removal but is not ready to civilize it. The controversy is analyzed at https://www.truthorfiction.com/did-dems-strike-under-god-from-the-pledge-of-allegiance-at-the-2020-dnc/. I did not see the reminder that President Eisenhower’s 1954 act was motivated by the Knights of Columbus. The pledge is also reviewed with initial suggestion to delete “under God” at “The Pledge of Allegiance - USHistory.org”; see the online link with the quotation of the prayer-less pledge.

I thought nothing of Staub School adding “under God” when I was eleven-years old, but today, I consider the pledge coercive. Not only do I object to the prayer “under God,” I object to “liberty” which is often taken as license to harm others over egocentric “rights.” Violence over “my rights” is a Saul Alinsky practice and a hallmark of AMO---Alinsky-Marxist organization. I think “liberty” is a 1688-1789 European call to solidarity against responsible human independence. When “my mob” starts harming people and property, I want the independence to exit.

It seems to me the phrase “whatever-God-is” expresses sufficient humility for individually accepting the human responsibility to constrain chaos---whether the individual is a theist or an atheist. I seek a better expression and have considered: posterity’s integrity, ultimate goodness, perfect appreciation, and civic justice as less arrogant than “under God” or “under the One.” With such qualifications, I could accept “Almighty God” to express U.S. humility, if most fellow citizens agreed. However, it seems “God” carries unavoidable doctrinal implications, and even “whatever-God-is” seems ultimately arrogant.

It’s good that the DNC started with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. All public functions could start with unison reading of the preamble and no other ceremony---no prayer, since we don’t really know what we need and wait for posterity’s posterity; maybe a skeletal pledge I am not prepared to suggest beyond "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands.” (I do not condone “justice, strength, liberty” instead of the preamble’s public disciplines: integrity, justice, peace, strength, and prosperity.) See https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/democratic-national-convention-dnc-night-1-transcript.

I appreciate Schwennesen’s concerns and hope he likes my suggestion: Activate the repressed U.S. Preamble’s people’s proposition. My interpretation today is: This appreciative citizen practices and promotes the 5 U.S. public disciplines---integrity, justice, peace, strength, and prosperity, "in order to” enjoy responsible human independence among “ourselves” and encourage “our Posterity.”

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Phillip Beaver
on August 28, 2020 at 22:24:59 pm

Re the highly debatable, loosely-deployed comment: "The truth is that solar, wind, and nuclear are all better energy options than coal and oil." I suppose its veracity would depend on: a comprehensive definition of ''better" and determinations 1) of "better for whom?" and 2) of adequacy to meet current and projected demand according to economic and demographic forecasts; and an accurate, unbiased analysis of the socio-cultural-economic-environmental-national security benefits and unsubsidized costs of coal, oil, wind, solar and nuclear. And what happened to natural gas, geothermal and hydro? I suspect that coal would do much better than the commenter implies, solar far worse, nuclear very well, oil and natural gas better than solar and wind, and hydro and geo-thermal poorly.

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paladin
on August 29, 2020 at 15:05:29 pm

I would add to the "solar is better" argument that the commenter may want to observe California which has been forced to reduce or temporarily eliminate power to vast swaths of its citizenry because (among other reasons) the "alternative energy" options are UNable to provide sufficient power to the citizenry.

I suppose that is "better" if one deludes oneself into thinking that ANY reduction in energy consumption is "better" for Good Old Gaia, Mother Earth.
Let us all dress up in medieval garb and celebrate our contribution to Gaia. And please, let us assign someone to pick up after our horses and donkeys that have taken the place of energy hogs such as automobiles.

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gabe
on August 29, 2020 at 16:26:05 pm

Ah, no, the usual suspects have demanded that Moore and Gibbs be burned at the stake, but all they did is put meat on the bones we already knew about. My support for climate alarm (at the expense of biodiversity and all the nonprofit work done for the environment in the past 50 years) ended the moment Al Gore tapdanced out onto the stage with his propaganda and carbon schemes. The past eight months and running have seen unprecedented reduction of emissions (at enormous expense to humanity) and what does Mauna Loa ESRL tell us? Atmospheric carbon dioxide actually increased.

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Brett
on August 30, 2020 at 08:30:08 am

In evaluating whether solar is a "better" form of energy than others I said that a proper cost benefit analysis must be conducted and spelled out the considerations that must be taken into account in that analysis. I failed to add a third energy form, biomass, which competes with solar for the title as the most subsidized, government-mandated form of energy and, like solar and wind, requires large allotments of land, the difference being that producing biomass does not make the land ugly and, unlike wind, does not kill millions of birds as its most salient signal contribution to the environment. Indeed, a field of corn is attractive, if not the rustic beauty of amber waves of grain. Solar and wind are aesthetically hideous.
Prerequisite to conducting a proper cost benefit analysis of solar and its competing energy forms, EPA must conduct a new and proper Endangerment Assessment regarding carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases and this time the EA must be done professionally, scientifically and lawfully, not politically and unlawfully, as was the Obama Administration's EA. Further, a challenge must be brought to the Supreme Court's erroneous 5-4 decision (Kennedy the swing vote) in Massachusetts vs. EPA, which declared that CO2 could be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, that there is a link between climate change and greenhouse gases, and that the Bush EPA's decision not to regulate greenhouse gases was arbitrary. Ultimately, that led to the Obama Administration's illegitimate Endangerment Assessment holding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are air pollutants, that they pose a substantial environmental risk and that risk requires EPA regulation.

My point is that illegitimate, politically-driven scientism, not science, and constitutional and statutory illegitimacy underlie the climate change hysteria and the rush to regulatory judgment in support of solar and wind, and they underlie the concerted legal campaign to destroy reliance on carbon-based fuels. A cost benefit analysis of solar and wind must be conducted only after these illegitimate foundations of solar and wind have been thoroughly addressed.

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paladin
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on September 12, 2020 at 17:11:30 pm

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