Flat White

The Planet of the Humans: Moore vs Gore and the renewables recidivists

27 April 2020

4:00 PM

27 April 2020

4:00 PM

Michael Moore’s The Planet of the Humans is currently one of the top trending videos on YouTube. Just in time for the Wuhan Virus lockdown, Moore has released his latest documentary for free. And in less than a week, it is quickly closing in on a massive, two-million views. 

Moore’s documentary makes for excruciating viewing, much like the ‘cringe humour’ of the original British version of The Office. Here are just some of the highlights: 

  • 6:58 While filming a music festival in “the green mountain state of Vermont powered by 100% solar energy”. However, when a little rain starts to fall the organisers are quickly forced to turn to a bio-diesel generator. And when that wasn’t enough, they have to plug into the electrical grid we all use. Jeff Gibbs, the director of The Planet of the Humans wryly concludes, “That, was disappointing. But after all, it had been raining. Maybe next time things would go better.” 
  • 9:57 Richard Branson promising to donate $3 billion dollars in future profits to fight global warming. (I’m sure the staff at Virgin Australia wishes he had hung on to a bit of that as they face imminent insolvency!) But when Branson is asked, “Is Al Gore a prophet?” Branson hesitates and jokingly says, “How do you spell profit?”  
  • 12:45 At the launch of the electric Chevy Volt Gibbs asks the spokeswoman for GM as to what’s charging the car he’s directed to the representative from the Lansing Board of Water and Light he’s told that their grid operates on 95% coal. He also goes on to say, “To suggest that all of the power used for these cars will be generated from wind and solar in the very near future would not be correct. In fact, we’re talking about charging these up at night so there won’t be any solar at that time. And so, we’re down to wind…and very often at night the wind does fall off so…” 
  • 14:35 Gibbs is then told that Lansing has the state of Michigan’s largest solar array just down the road and he is invited to check it out. In one of those segments where the representative will rue the day he was ever so honest, Gibbs is told that the panels only have an efficiency of 8%. When asked how many homes would this array—the size of a football field—provide electricity for, Gibbs is told: “The standard answer that we tell everybody is that we’re providing the peak requirement for fifty homes. However, for most of the people who look at it a little closer…it’s just a little over ten homes over a year.” 
  • 17:15 Next they turn their attention to wind farms. And Gibbs wisely asks, “They were impressive machines. But is it possible for machines made from industrial civilisation to save us from industrial civilisation?” Especially when he learns that the wind turbines need to have a fossil fuel power plant to back it up so that it’s running at the same speed all the time. Otherwise, you’ll just generate an even bigger carbon footprint to bring it back up to speed. 
  • 21:15 Then Moore’s team investigates a zoo which was supposed to be powered by elephant manure. But it turns out that they didn’t produce enough to even heat the elephant barn! 
  • 21:40 Even more alarmingly, he visits an ethanol plant where he’s informed that even they are reliant upon huge quantities of fossil fuels to remain operational. Gibbs quips, “Great. So, ethanol was reliant upon two things. A giant fossil-fuel based industrial agricultural system to produce corn. And even more fossil fuels in the form of coal. All of this in the attempt to replace fossil fuels. It was enough to make my head explode.” 
  • 22:50 In interviewing Richard York, an environmental sociologist from the University of Oregon, where’s he told that “Nations which add non-fossil fuel energy sources do not seem to see a particular suppression of fossil-fuel use.” So, green energy is not even replacing fossil fuels… 
  • 24:40 But for environmentalists, it gets even worse. Gibb’s is then told that solar panels are not made out of sand—as is commonly thought—but a high quality quartz and coal. Further, some solar panels only last for about ten years before they need to be replaced.
  • 26:10 What’s more, as coal plants are shut down, they are being commonly replaced with natural gas facilities which is self-defeating because that is also a fossil fuel. So, when some people talk about “Clean Energy” they’re referring to solar and wind, whereas when major donors such as Michael Blomberg talk about clean energy he’s also referring to natural gas. Ironically, this has led to one of the largest expansions in the use of fossil fuels through the reliance on natural gas. 
  • 29:40 When talking to industry insiders Gibbs is informed that they “Need be able to back up power to keep the system steady all the time so it doesn’t collapse. Most likely that’s through fast-acting gas plants, but also what we call the baseload plants, either nuclear or coal that are on all the time but that maybe can be dialled down during the day and dialled up when demand starts rising.” But that is a huge problem because of the further energy that is lost during that process. 
  • 30:20 Following on from this, the central issue is that of storage. But here in again is a massive problem since it dramatically increases the carbon footprint. 
  • 34:09 Elon Musk gets a shellacking for promising to run his Tesla Gigafactory completely on a combination of thermal wind and solar, producing all the energy that it needs. But the reality is, it has lines connecting it up to the same electrical grid that we’re all connected to. 
  • 35:30. Apple also claims to be based on 100% renewable energy. However, they too are still firmly connected to the electrical grid. What’s more, there’s no evidence of a single entity anywhere in the world that’s running on a 100% of solar and wind alone. 
  • 54.00 Gibbs finds out that biomass facilities are really just burning enormous amounts of wood as well as natural gas. What’s more, because machinery and trucks are needed to cut down trees and transport it to the plant, the whole process couldn’t function without the use of fossil fuels. Not only that, but a single biomass plant emits over 400 thousand tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. 
  • 56:45 One particular biomass plant uses tyre-derived fuel to raise the temperature of the fire, because anybody who’s tried to burn green wood or wet wood, knows that it doesn’t burn very well. So, “We’re to do our part by getting out of bed with coal companies and into bed with logging companies?” 
  • 1:01:50 Then he finds out at that household rubbish is also considered as being suitable for burning in a biofuel energy plant, even though it releases horrible smells and pollutants.
  • 1:03:50 Even Germany which is held up as the model as to what can be achieved in using renewables uses biomass as the greatest proportion— 60% —of its renewable energy needs: 

  • 1:07:00 Then comes the most climatic ‘cringe’ moment of all…Gibbs addresses the director of the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania and she is immediately out of her depth and she is forced into obfuscating the question by offering the excuse that their position is “nuanced” and she’s not prepared to give a definitive answer. One-minute later, Robert F. Kennedy Jnr and Bill McKibben both do exactly the same thing. 
  • 1:15:30 Gibbs asks, “So when you divest from fossil fuels, and invest in Green Funds what are you investing in?” Gibbs takes a deep dive into Securities and Exchange Commission filings to find out. And what he finds is that, for instance, in the Green Century Funds less than 1% is being invested into solar and wind, compared with 99% invested into mining…oil and gas infrastructure companies…biofuels…logging and paper companies…and banks, lots of banks. 
  • 1:17:28 Gibbs says, “And in perhaps the most bizarre twist of all, the Sierra Club’s green fund’s biggest holding is in Viva, the world’s largest consumer of forests, to be incinerated in green energy biomass plants. 
  • 1:25:00 Bill McKibben tries to pretty clearly dodge a straightforward question put to him by a journalist as to who his major funders aware. Then with a little prompting, he’s reminded that he has been helped by the Rockefeller Foundation. 
  • 1:26:00 The infamous Al Gore—of An Inconvenient Truth fame—is confronted on numerous occasions as to whether there is hypocrisy in him selling a communications business to Al Jazeera – one of the largest companies on earth backed by fossil fuel monies. 
  • Finally, at 1:27:00 they come back to another music festival. This time is the environmental holy day of ‘Earth Day’ and the speaking is its founder, Denis Hayes. Hayes says that the entire event is running on solar energy. But when Gibbs goes backstage, to see what is really going on, he’s told, “It ain’t running this whole thing on that, Jack. I can tell you that.” Gibbs quickly learns that it is again being powered by supplementary power sources.  

If you’re an environmentalist of any shade of green, it makes for heart-rendering viewing. But Gibbs has the courage to truly self-reflect and ask, “Why, for most of my life, have I fallen for the illusion green energy would save us?” To find an answer, at the forty-nine-minute mark, Gibbs speaks with Sheldon Solomon, a social psychologist at Skidmore College. Where he asks: 

I’ll just be honest with you about my dilemma…The right has religion and they have a belief in infinite fossil fuels. Our side says, “It’s going to be OK, we’re going to have solar panels, we’re going to have wind towers. As soon as I heard you talk about our denial of death I’m like, “Could that, be it?” Could it be that we cannot face our own mortality? Could we have a religion that we’re unaware of?”


The response from the social psychologist is as concise as it is affirming: 

Absolutely! I think you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head.

This is the most profound insight in the whole movie. It’s that environmentalists have turned their philosophy into a man-made god or idol. And because of that, it must be worshipped with unquestioning devotion.  

It was Nietzsche who posed the question in his book, Thus Spake Zarathustra, that if there are gods, how could man bear not to be a god on earth? This led to his infamous battle cry, “Nothing but earth!” and to his further summons to, “Remain faithful, I adjure you, my brothers, to the earth. Do not thrust your heads into the sands of heavenly things…To sin against the earth, that is now the most monstrous crime of all.” 

Nietzsche’s militantly atheistic philosophy not only paved the way for German Nazism but also explains the irrational and dogmatic religious fervour of those who believe in the catastrophic climate emergency. In short, in their rejection of God, they need the coming ecological apocalypse to be true. Because this is what gives their lives purpose and meaning. They have to preach a gospel of saving the planet because there is no transcendent being who will save them. 

And as such, their humanist version of the Christian great commission (See Matthew 28:16-20) is ironically anti-human. For only the solution that Gibbs offer is a dramatic depopulation of the earth. The sacrifice of potential children so that Gai—Mother Earth—might be appeased and shower down her prosperity. 

All of which means that while The Planet of the Humans offers a powerful critique of the problem, it ultimately offers no hope. Significantly, this is something that even the left-leaning The Guardian observes with the reviewer writing: 

Most chillingly of all, Gibbs at one stage of the film appears to suggest that there is no cure for any of this, that, just as humans are mortal, so the species itself is staring its own mortality in the face. But he appears to back away from that view by the end, saying merely that things need to change. But what things and how?

It’s not at all clear…

Then, even more shockingly, he answers his own question saying: 

I found myself thinking of Robert Stone’s controversial 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise, which made a revisionist case for nuclear power: a clean energy source that (allegedly) has cleaned up its act on safety and really can provide for our wholesale energy needs without contributing to climate change, in a way that “renewables” can’t.

Gibbs doesn’t mention nuclear and – a little lamely, perhaps – has no clear lesson or moral, other than the need to take a fiercely critical look at the environmental establishment. Well, it’s always valuable to re-examine a sacred cow. 

If Moore’s latest documentary achieves this shift in thinking, then it would indeed be an act of God. Regardless, this is well worth the ninety-odd minutes of your time watching, especially in lock-down when there’s not much else to do — and you can still afford the electricity. 

Mark Powell is Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

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