One of the few-and-far-between perks of being a climate blogger is that occasionally I get access to books and movies before the general public does. This past weekend I got to watch “Greedy Lying Bastards” before it hit movie screens across the U.S. on Monday. Sunday night I, along with some fellow Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers, got together to watch this 90 minute documentary. This movie exposes the American fossil fuel interests that have been blocking action on climate change for decades, taking a page – and some of the same PR firms and lobbyists – right out of the tobacco companies’ playbook. Like the tobacco lobby, these fossil fools have opposed government action on the science showing their product is harmful and have actively disseminated lies about the science.
After the movie, I surveyed group members for their responses; we all gave it 10 out of 10 for its topic, but for actual delivery the movie was rated between 6 to 8 out of 10.
Some of the comments were:
“I really appreciated the whistle-blowing, the naming of names. I also really appreciated first-hand accounts of people in the U.S. who are already suffering the consequences of climate change.”
“I haven’t watched a documentary about this topic before, and really appreciated the great graphics. They made the connections for me.”
Two viewers had recently watched “The Age of Stupid” and felt that it spelled out the greed and petro-corruption as well as the consequences of inaction on climate change more clearly than did GLB.
I enjoyed the movie. Of course as a climate hawk I’m thrilled that this corruption and interference in democracy is receiving more attention at this critical juncture in the planet’s history, and for that I want to give a big shout-out to writer and director Scott Rosebraugh and producer Darryl Hannah. Compared to “Age of Stupid” which totally overwhelmed and depressed me and my companion, GLB left me riled up and ready to fight back at these soulless corporate monsters. One critique I have is that the movie ended with a whimper. Rosebraugh offers – in 60 seconds – four actions for people to take in response to the information they’ve just heard (possibly for the first time). It’s not that the actions mentioned (boycotting Exxon & Koch products, asking your Congressional representatives to take action to curb greenhouse gases, “joining the campaign” to stop fossil fuel subsidies and campaigning to overturn Citizens United) aren’t important, they are but to spend 89 minutes of the movie focused on the fossil fools who are destroying U.S. democracy as well as our children’s future without giving viewers more information on taking action may well foster more futility and despair. And, frankly, just signing a petition or writing a letter to your congressperson isn’t going to cut it at this point. The movie doesn’t give enough specifics on responses; the shocking amount of fossil fuel subsidies companies are given every year ($4 Billion in the United States, $775 Billion globally) isn’t even mentioned even while people are encouraged to get active on this issue. To move people from outrage to action, more information and empowerment is necessary. For example, viewers should know that there are governments (Australia, and the Canadian province of British Columbia) who have enacted a tax on carbon pollution, one of the first actions that governments can take to counter the fossil fuel stranglehold on our democracies and our economies.There are groups like 350.org and Citizens Climate Lobby (to name the ones I’m most familiar with) who are working to mobilize people at the grassroots; these important resources are not mentioned in the movie or on the movie’s “take action” website. This silo mentality is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to climate action, so I would beg the fine people involved in GLB and its website to expand their resources and “take action” focus. For that reason I would give the movie a ranking of 7.5 out of 10. Having said that, get out and watch the movie if it’s showing in a theatre near you, and take some friends with you.
For my part as a Canadian, I’d like to add a few more GLBs to the rogues’ gallery compiled by Rosebraugh:
Tim Ball worked as a professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg for eight years between 1988 and 1996. I am personally offended by Mr. Ball because not only did he work at my alma mater, and employed a family member for several years as his research assistant, he has been quoted back to me by acquaintances of mine from rural Manitoba where he’s gone on paid lecturing junkets. I hear that he can be very persuasive, and he’s told these good people that climate change is nothing to worry about (“the climate has always changed”), and so they don’t worry, even while this inaction puts their children’s future at risk. He even lies about his credentials – in this 2007 movie that purports to debunk climate science, you can see he’s identified as being from a department that never existed, in the university that he left 11 years earlier. Now that’s what I call a GLB!
And this Canadian GLB gallery wouldn’t be complete without a portrait of our current prime minister, Stephen Harper, son (spawn? LOL) of an Imperial Oil employee who went on to work for the oil company himself. Harper and his party’s ties to Big Oil are well-documented and are clearly playing themselves out in the current federal government’s policy decisions (see Murray Dobbin’s “Stephen Harper and the Big Oil Party of Canada, or DesmogBlog’s new series, Blame Canada).