(No longer in theaters)
Chuck Castleberry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brian Gerber, Leila Conners Petersen
Warner Independent Pictures
Aug 24, 2007
The 11th Hour says the machine that is the Earth is breaking down. It isn’t much of a movie (unless your aesthetic was formed in high-school science class), but it will be hugely informative to aliens who land on this planet in a thousand years and wonder why there’s no welcoming committee. It opens with a barrage of catastrophes—floods, avalanches, and fires intercut with high-resolution photos of an embryo, plus a voyage through the birth canal. The point is that children are being born into a world in its death throes: It seems a tad hysterical until you see Dorothy Gale fly over Bay Ridge.
My friend Bill McKibben has been crying in (and from) the wilderness about climate change since his great eighties book The End of Nature, which helped get him branded “an environmental wacko” by Rush Limbaugh and heaps of ridicule in more respectable circles. Last week, Sharon Begley’s superb Newsweek cover story on the global-warming denial industry traced the origins and funding of the skeptics—who in any other culture would be the ones labeled wackos (or worse). The 11th Hour, directed and written by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, mixes in enough hard science to make the Deepak Chopra New Age flummery less easy to snicker at. I think “tree-huggers” have a lot to say, but the people who make the strongest cases here do so from a purely economic vantage. The corporations heating up (and ripping up) the planet for short-term economic gains are—as Thom Hartmann puts it—depleting the Earth’s ancient stores of energy. Their methods are a monument to waste. Their checkbook is insanely unbalanced. Among the brilliant speakers are David Orr, Andy Revkin, Vijay Vaitheeswaran, David Suzuki, Paul Hawken, Stephen Hawking, and even Bill McKibben. For narrator Leo’s sake, though, someone should have told the directors that shorter, punchier sentences work better than longer ones with lots of internal clauses.