074: Rewriting Planet of the Humans
What was Michael Moore trying to do by dropping the film Planet of the Humans on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day?
Well, one thing he did was make a bunch of environmentalists very angry. This is a very complicated movie that has some valuable insights, along with plenty of inaccurate information, personal attacks and a depressing, abrupt ending.
That was his take. Tune in to hear mine.
I'm Joan Gregerson, founder of Green Team Academy. Had Michael Moore given me a call before the Planet of the Humans film was finalized and said,
"Hey, Joan. What do you think?"
I would have gladly answered! This podcast episode is my response.
A great film outline would be divided in three parts:
- Show people the urgency and depth of the problem and talk about our wish for a harmonious world.
- Teach something important about holistic thinking, biomimicry, indigenous wisdom and systems of oppression.
- Show the solution and give a call to action about how people can come together and make a difference.
I don't dissect every inaccuracy and distraction in the movie. I kinda don't want to give the hurtful fire-starting tactics. So, my review is not a line-by-line, blow-by-blow analysis.
Instead, it's a proposal of what could have been done to wake people up, educate them and give them a way forward.
Planet of the Humans was jam-packed with unsubstantiated claims, with errors and with personal attacks. That really hurt the movie. It made the film feel cheap and slimy, exactly like the kinds of deceptive practices it claimed to be uncovering.
Scroll down to see the entire unformatted transcript.
Here are references for the statistics I shared:
“Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014.”
Our Living Planet Report 2018
"Earth is estimated to have lost about half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.”
Our Living Planet Report 2018
Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals.
“By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Global Assessment, (May 2019)
"On May 3, 2020, the highest ever greenhouse gas concentration in history was observed at Mauna Loa Observatory: 418.12 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. Improved national climate action plans are crucial to reverse the trend > https://bit.ly/2W0doIz #NDCs", UN Climate Change, Tweet, (May 4, 2020)
Greenhouse gas emissions to set new record this year, but rate of growth shrinks
Science Magazine, December 2019
Mauna Loa Observatory
Lifetime of Panels 25 to 50 years
95% of panels now being installed are the 'second class' of polycrystalline and monocrystalline. They are warranted to 25 years, but because it's an inert design, they are expected to function for 50 to 100 years. Solar Reviews. (Plus my own experience reviewing panel guarantees 2018-2019)
Reviews & Rebuttals by Others
‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal, Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben (May 1, 2020)
Movie Review: Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans” Traffics in Myths, Errors, and Dangerous Misdirection, John Rogers, Union of Concerned Scientists (May 2, 2020)
Green Team Academy podcast episode 74. Tune in to this episode to hear how I would rewrite the script for Michael Moore's new movie Planet of the humans. And before we get into that, I just want to say if you are someone who wants to make a bigger difference for the planet, you want to figure out how to make a bigger impact faster, then head over to Green Team academy.com. Start with the free Green Team essentials to find the 12 most common yet avoidable Green Team mistakes and all kinds of free trainings and you can check out other podcast episodes, and all kinds of good stuff to help you on your way as well as my upcoming book climate action breakthrough. That will be available in June 2020. So you can sign up to be part of my advanced reader crew. Alright, so with that, let's get started.
Hey, green team, what is up? Oh, wow, it's just always so nice to be hanging out with you. And I know a lot of folks have tuned in to the new movie by Michael Moore, narrated by Jeff Gibbs movie is called Planet of the humans, and you can watch it for free on YouTube. The movie is very controversial, and I'm going to leave links to some of the analysis by some other folks, including a really thoughtful response from Bill McKibben and it to me it feels like I don't know, I can't really pin my pin down an analogy that makes sense, but it's something like a kid throwing a temper tantrum. But but the what the kid is upset about is something real. Or, you know, somebody's driving a bulldozer into a parade because what the front To celebrating is not worth celebrating. So it's it's like that kind of thing where there is something that needs to be addressed, but just the way that it was done in this movie, it really focused on attacking the environmental movement without really attacking all the obstructionists and climate deniers and fossil fuel industry. So it's, it's a little bit puzzling. I was I was in contact with somebody who was watching it the other day, and I was just getting these one text after the other. Oh my god, what is he doing? Oh, no. And it's like, it's that kind of a movie where you're, it's, it's just pretty hard to describe, but basically, I hope that you will watch it first. And then listen to the rest of this podcast.
What what I think happened with Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs is that, you know, there's a saying that Einstein has is attributed to Einstein that says, You can't solve a problem with the thinking that created it. And that's actually a big point that they're trying to make is that the industrialization of society created this, this dependency on fossil fuels and this way of working, that has degraded our environment. And so they're saying that if we turn to industrialize solar and wind, that is not the answer. And that we need to look at the population and one line in there was we have too many people using too much stuff too fast. And so that line right there, that is true, that is great. But but there's a lot of The problem with the film, there's a lot of problems with the film. But one of them was that he also threw in a lot, or they, I guess, also threw in a lot of incorrect information. Like they said, the lifetime of a solar panel is 10 years. Well, that's just not true. The guarantee degradation is that at like 35 years, it's still going to be I think, 85 90% of its production capacity. So 35 to 50 years would have been a better number. And that's just one example. And then they also went
after a lot of the champions of people that have been saying, Man, this climate change is an issue and we need to come together and do different things like Bill McKibben and Al Gore. And, you know, there are things that everybody has done wrong, but I mean, I always think if al gore had been elected instead of Bush, we probably wouldn't be in this horrendous situation that we are now. And so, so anyhow, that whole thing, my my interpretation of what happened is that that Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, their thinking is part of the problem there also, this, this attack and blaming and singling people out and their thinking is part of the same thinking that caused the problem. And that's why they don't know they don't know the solution. And so they didn't talk about the solution. And here's here's a tip I, I do a lot of coaching. I help people create webinars where they, they shows somebody some they give some free training and then they encourage that person to sign up for their coaching. Your course or whatever it is they're trying to promote. But there's a rule when you're doing something where you want to lead people through a transformation and the rule, the the simple way that was broken down for me by Dr. Angela Lauria, who has the company, the Author Incubator, who I'm working with to do my book. But the simple way you do a presentation like that is you break it into thirds, where the first third talks about the problem, and the dream come true. So this is what is happening now. What does that person what did people want to see? The middle third is where you teach. And then the last third is where you talk about the solution and that you give the call to action. And so if I was michael moore's editor on this project, that's what I would have set up the way he did it. was a poor job of the first two parts. And the last part is missing of those three parts. So I'm going to give you my interpretation of what I think would be a great film outline for doing something like he, I think was trying to do. So. Okay, so the first part, I mean, I've been thinking of writing a book called Wake the fuck up. And I think the first part that he did was he was trying to shock people and wake people up. And so I agree with his, his, his desire there. I don't think he did a good job of it.
Definitely the the point I would make in that first part is the environmental movement has failed. Me personally, I'm 59 years old. My name is Joan Gregerson, founder of Green Team Academy might have skipped that earlier. I'm 59 years old. I have witnessed the most massive environmental degradation I have dedicated my life to. I first was an engineer I worked in energy efficiency, renewable energy sustainability. That was my initial work and all that work, and yet and working with other people who cared. We have overseen the most massive degradation of planet other than asteroids or ice ages. So the what we've been doing has failed. We we have categorically failed. And this is really important for people to understand.
So the average wildlife populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, is now 40% of what it was in when I was 10 years old. Human population is more than doubled. But the wildlife population is 40% or less now.
Coral reefs in the past 30 years, the, the amount of thriving coral reefs is now half what it was just 30 years ago. And coral reefs are the bedrock literally, of, of our ecosystems. Because the oceans are the are so important to making everything work and coral reefs, they protect the, the coast from erosions. They're the nurseries for all this diversity of fish and everything that's happening in the oceans. So there's an example
Another one is that our plastic produce production which was very minimal started around 1950 or so. is now the annual plastic production the weight of it is roughly equal to the weight of the human population every year. So, yeah, we have failed. And that is that is the that's the number one thing that we need to be talking about.
So I didn't even did I mentioned climate change? Have I even mentioned climate change? I just saw a tweet come through that yesterday. So this is May 4, yesterday was the highest ever level of CO2 at the Mount, the Mauna Loa, test measurement site. So our end in 2019 was the highest ever carbon emissions produced. So we don't have this thing under control. It's what we've been doing is not working. That is We need to start with that exact fact.
So, okay, so we're still in the first third of the movie, right? So the, the first thing is that what we're doing is not working. And the, the dream what we want, what we want is to live in harmony with nature. What we want is to find a way that one generation does not decrease the opportunities for the next generation. We don't want our generations actions to limit the ability of the next generations to to thrive. We want to get to a point where each generation provides a more resilient, more beautiful, more equitable future for the next and so far, that hasn't been happening. So that's that's what I would say.
In that first part, and, and yes, the promise has been that we can just build our way out of it by building more solar and more wind. And so that was that is, that's what I would do in the first third of the movie. Okay, so now we're moving into the next third of the movie where this is the teaching part, and examining in more depth, what are the things that we need to know? So, here's the number one thing I would say that we need to know is that the reason one of the main reasons that the environmental movement has failed, is because it has continued this industrialized thinking and that that thinking is wrapped up another way to say it would be colonized. And we had a ton of speakers that talked about this on the earth week summit, the 2020 Earth Week Summit, you can go to EarthWeekSummit.com and go and listen to all those speakers.
But Robert Reich REICH film inequality for all, he's an economics professor that details that how the income inequality has worsened over the past few generations. So these systemic problems of racism
and patriarchy and colonialism of operating on with stolen people on stolen lands and this extraction
mindset and a non circular a linear economy like let's make plastics sell it and then just bury it
like that is not that's not a circular economy that's not regenerative. And so the I think the number one thing that I feel like was not really articulated well in the movie was that it is these oppressive systems that are perpetuating the problems that we've had all along and they're perpetuating the environmental catastrophe that is happening the We're seeing it right now with the Coronavirus how it's it's hitting the people communities of color, and those who are in more vulnerable, more vulnerable health issues. And it's, you know, it's an inconvenience for the the people of privilege. So white communities, more affluent communities, and it's dire and deadly for people that are homeless or, you know, lots of different communities, Native American communities that are not getting the basic support that that other areas are. So, these systems of oppression that have existed for a long time, are are at the root of why we have not been able to make progress with in the environment. So ideas like we're going to recycle our way out of it or we're going To build more solar panels or more turbans, that's not going to work because the people that are in power are going to find a way to, to make to make money off of it and continue the the oppression. And so that is I think one of the key things that that the movie was trying to get at and did get at in some regards. But what the part that that wasn't brought to light is, is this holistic thinking. Yes, they said that we like we as the US and these more developed countries, but especially the US consume way more than it's sustainable. And the idea that we can just not change our lifestyle and figure out ways to support the current lifestyle, that that idea that we can Continue this lifestyle and keep the planet healthy. That's completely unworkable. So we definitely need to change our lifestyle and in a very big way, in the 2019, intergovernmental science policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, which was a global assessment published in May 2019. They are saying through transformative change, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably. This is also key to meeting most other global goals. transformative change. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental system wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms goals and values. This is what the movie was getting at. We can't continue with the lifestyle that we have and just try to meet it with With technology, and, you know, an example that I have of that is as a wellness coach. And as somebody who has gained a lot of weight a couple times, so 35 pounds overweight, I went into Weight Watchers and stepped on the scale. And after I stepped on the scale, they said, Would you like to buy some of our processed food? Basically, they didn't use those words. But instead of saying, Hey, here's an apple. Instead, they were pointing me to the industrialized food, which was and the marketing which was the reason that one of the reasons that I gained weight in the first place. And so I think that is a that's kind of a good analogy for, for what they're pointing out is that us trying to focus on big solar and big wind as our way out, has some flaws. Another weakness in our current approach is the absence of holistic thinking. This holistic thinking that indigenous cultures
have practiced for millennia, there really was no other way to live, right? It had it was holistic. People were in touch with nature before with the rhythms and the boundaries and the limits of their place before because that's the only way that we had to live for thousands and thousands of years. And that wisdom GOT GOT subjugated to this idea of technology, solving things and I know personally so in my own trajectory, I was really interested in in the environment from a very young age. My father was a petroleum engineer. And so I started working for him at about age 10. Plotting oil and gas production. curves and saw how after you get the data plotted, you draw it out to zero. And so I understood, like this is not a regenerative cycle. This is a finite extraction thing and I was asking him at a very young age at age 10 or so, what are you doing what's and he said, Yeah, I'm talking to people at work about this. So I, I thought the adults would make a change. That idea of big solar and big wind came early to me. So 1978 is when the Solar Energy Research Institute was opened, and Jimmy Carter came out and and commemorated the place and was putting solar panels on the White House. I have to say this was you know, pretty small scale he was putting on solar hot water panels, which is pretty low tech system, but That got me excited about if I want to address pollution, like I'd written a poem about pollution when I was 10 years old that got published. But if I want to address this, and I need to go into engineering, that's what I said, I want to study solar. They said, We don't have it. So they said, we'll go into engineering. So I went into engineering to try to fix the environment to try to protect the environment.
And, and so what, but what I saw, it was just so crazy, because one of the courses that I took when I was going through engineering was passive solar design. And this was before we had personal computers. My sister and I were both in the class at the same time in two different campuses. And we both purchased an HP programmable calculator because what we did was we evaluate waited different designs. And you would look at how the the sun angle hit the building. So throughout the year was was it going to require energy or was it going to be able to maintain itself and and then when I went to Mesa Verde in Colorado and saw this place where this, these ancient civilizations were living, that was a perfect passive solar design.
I got it, I got it that if you have a big overhang on the south side, that in the winter when the sun angle is low, it comes right in and then the thermal mass if it hits that that rock face and it charges that up, and then at night, that heat comes back off and it keeps the people very comfortable. And then in the winter When the sun angle is high, the same overhang stops the sun from hitting. And so that space in there stays very cool because it's connected to the ground and it's not getting charged by the sun.
So that is that is working in harmony with nature. And that's the holistic thinking that that honors the wisdom of the indigenous cultures, who have been learning the patterns of the sun and the stars and when's the best planting and learning the ways of nature and how to be in relationship with that. But that's really different than what the kinds of jobs that I was given as an engineer, which was running building energy simulations, on houses that were just playing into housing development with no care about the orientation.
And when we would run the simulations, it, you could see that there, the houses that had proper orientation, use less energy and we're going to be more comfortable. But nobody seemed to really care. They just said, Well, we can't afford it. And, and so that kind of disregard for living in harmony with nature is where the heartbreak has been for me.
And another example is I was designing I was working on a design review manual for some housing in in Hawaii. And here's another example. Here I am dedicated myself to protecting the planet and living in harmony and you In the early 80s, right after college, it was really hard to get a job at that time, there's kind of a little depression. So, working in an energy efficiency consulting company, most of our contracts were with the defense industry. And so again, it was just like this perversion of my, my Will my gifts, my intention to help people live in harmony. And here at our company, we're helping the Department of Defense, which, you know, our defense budget is what more than the next 10 countries put together something. So, okay, we're doing something for the Defense Department. And this was some housing for an Air Force Base in in Hawaii. The conventional approach that we were using was measuring the insulation, the window types, the, you know, we would do energy modeling and come up with kind of a design guidance for them.
But I was like, wait, I've been to Hawaii. And it's so temperate. Why are we talking about putting air conditioning in? Like, do you really need air conditioning? Because in our model, we were giving people credit for putting in a more energy efficient air conditioner. And instead, what I did is I went out of my way, and came up with an alternative path that says, Okay, well, you know, at this time of the year, the trade winds, the winds tend to flow in this direction. And the traditional housing is already knows about this. So traditional housing is built like this and they have these big, sliding room dividers and openings and certain kinds of shading, so that so that you don't need a lot of technology in order to make it happen. But, you know, that wasn't something I was asked to do. And I'm not sure if anybody even used it.
You know what all we said was, you're using this amount of electricity now and coming from your coal plant or wherever it is, and if you put the solar on you'll be using this amount. But so even in our sales process, we didn't say, but if you want to know your carbon footprint, you should probably deduct all of the energy that went into the mining and assembly and shipping of this device. I think it's the same with electric cars. That Yes, there's one paradigm says when you go from your gas powered car to your electric car, here's what's happening. But we're, we're generally not taking into account the rest of that cycle. And we should be, we should be doing that. Because when people bring these questions up, we should be able to answer them in a in a better way. And so it points out that we're not our accounting for the externalities. Is, is lacking and this is a big area that we should be improving. It's just the same like if you buy something, you buy a head of lettuce and it is wrapped in plastic. There should be some cost to whoever decided to wrap that thing in plastic. That cost should be
Going back to them, rather than me who who unwraps it or the city where I dispose of that. And, and so I think that's one thing that it pointed out. Many of the assumptions were wrong. As I was saying before, like, the lifetime of a solar panel, they said is 10 years, it's more like probably 35 to 50.
So that was just really poor journalism. That was just wrong to be stating things that were 100% incorrect. So that was a real disservice when they did that. But one of the things that I think should be talked about is that the idea of building batteries and building things that use we're we're still using the extraction model. We're still doing things in an extractive way where where Going down into the depths of the earth and extracting things like iron and rare earth minerals, and using high temperatures, our toxic chemicals or high pressures to manufacture those, that, again, this is where I think they weren't able to say it. But that's a lot different than the solar power that a plant uses. So when you look at putting a seed in the ground, and it powers itself by photosynthesis, right with all the, the chemicals that it has available to it, that is the contrast. So where we want to get is to being one of those species that does not need to have an extractive component to to solving this problem. And so the things like the rare earth minerals, and steel and all those things that are now being used up As part of this process, that that's a very valid complaint that was raised in this system. And one of the ways to to look at this more is the concept of Biomimicry. And Biomimicry is a book by Janine Benyus. There's also Biomimicry Institute. But the idea of biomimicry is that we as humans tend to use all the minerals on the periodic table. But nature when nature does its chemistry, it uses very few number of chemicals. And it does most of that in ambient conditions. And it's only fluid that it uses generally is water. She gives the idea I'll leave the link to the video here. She is an example of making high tech ceramics. So When humans make high tech ceramics, they are generally you imagine like a big kiln or some kind of chemical so high temperature high pressure, high and toxic chemicals. But when nature makes a high tech, a very hard ceramic, it the the inside of an abalone shell But mother or pearl iridescent material is twice as tough twice, twice as hard as most of our high tech ceramics and it's doing it in seawater with the elements that are just floating by. So it has a way of making this template that has these different charge spots. And as the different minerals come in, they settle in and they self assemble this this super hard to
And that's the kind of transformative thinking that that we need. So, so that is that's what I would do for the second part of the film is, is show how the thinking that we've been using so far has been limited to this industrial basis rooted in these systems of oppression, when nature already has the answers. So then for the third part of the film, what I would do is say, Okay, well, now we know that money and power corrupts that industrialized thinking is limited and that nature already has the answers. So what should we do? And in this part, I would show how small groups of people in their own communities are creating this transform formative change, without relying on their governments or big companies to to make this, they're they're working, they're partnering with nature. They're developing relationships with the natural environment. And they're figuring out how to learn how to live in harmony. And when enough of those groups do that, they have the power to demonstrate what they're trying to tell their cities to do. And they can then tell their cities, you know, we're able to do this much, but you're blocking us here. So we need you to change your policies. And so here's some examples. There were some folks so during 2019, I mentored 20, some teams throughout Metro Denver, and through this process, each team was based in a place so it was Have faith community, a neighborhood school? Some other community groups, and they just started talking, meeting with each other and talking with each other and asking how can we do better. And each of them came up with these really beautiful ideas. So there's people that have started farmers markets because they were in a food desert. There are people that like the we're at a faith community that started took out grass and changed it into community gardens where they grow food for the poor families in their community. They grow the kind of foods that they want because most of them are from certain area in Africa and have a preference for mustard greens, collard greens, a super nutritious foods, and they work doing cooking classes. So that people can get this kind of food into their diets and improve their, their nutrition.
And another example is somebody that's that was on one of my teams that have this idea of, Hey, what about starting a neighborhood to neighborhood challenge? And so they're now doing the Denver compost challenge and, you know, plastics recycling right now is it's kind of a mess, right? Like, so. And most people think recycling and yeah, recycling is great for, for cans for paper, and for some plastics, but there's a big gap in knowledge with composting. And in the city of Denver, about half of what gets sent to the landfill could be composted. So there's a group of neighbors that are working together to educate other neighbors on the value of composting and how to do it. When people say, Well, I can't do it because whatever, then they troubleshoot and find an answer. So I can't do it because I'm in an apartment, well, hey, here's a couple companies that will come pick your compost up for you. Or I can't do it because there's no space. Well, maybe you can talk with your neighbor and see if you can share that because the city of Denver is okay with that. As long as you guys work it out.
There's another part of the paradigm shift that I think needs to happen, which is not focusing so much on the whole replacing fossil fuels part of it, but instead, this idea of reducing our consumption, living more in harmony with nature, and, and planting more trees. When I was doing this retreat last weekend. This actually is action plan retreats that I do.
Darwin Malewe in Zambia is working on a project to plant 10,000 trees. Michael Alcazar is working on a project that he calls 1 million trees for Colorado to plant a million trees this year. And those are the kinds of things where it's going straight to nature and saying, Okay, what would nature do? What would the solution be from nature?
Out of this colonialized thinking, as a lot of people on the summit, were saying, come up with a more indigenous perspective of that. So that is, you know, making choices that are good for the next seven generations. Or as biomimicry, in biomimicry, they say, for the next 10,000 generations, making decisions that take care of the place for the next 10,000 generations, when we can start making those decisions, then we're going to maybe we do it in time that we save humanity but at least we're going to redeem humanity as our, our legacy as a species that if we can turn this thing around and start working cooperatively and and getting back our the power of the communities.
I have a new book coming out which is Climate Action Breakthrough: Creating the World We Want One Team at a Time. That's coming out in June 2020. If you want to be on my advanced reader crew, then just look under Books at GreenTeamAcademy.com.
Alright, thanks so much. Again, it's Joan Gregerson, here and remember that the time for action is now because there is no Planet B. See you soon. Bye