As it opens with a barrage of violent images of natural disasters, human industry, explosions, and animals running to and fro, the documentary The 11th Hour starts off with a rather grim image of the way things are. Though the images that follow throughout the rest of the film often seem a bit disjointed from the talking heads that describe the state of the planet, the film ultimately communicates the interconnectedness of all things and mankind’s responsibility for our environment.
In many ways, The 11th Hour seems to be a remake of An Inconvenient Truth with Leonardo DiCaprio stepping into the shoes of Al Gore in order to reach the younger demographics. If that alone were the case, the strategy works brilliantly, for as the film points out, it is an exciting time to live because this generation is the one that gets to change the world, and the young minds are the ones that will carry it out. Of course, Leo brings his point home with a few fellows a bit more long in the tooth than he is, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and journalist Paul Hawken among other reputable minds.
Regarding age, one of the first points made in the film is that humankind is relatively young in relation to the rest of the planet. This puts the theme of the film in a sharper focus when we realize that life will continue on the earth regardless of what we do. The question is if the earth will be able to sustain human life for much longer. At the rate of population growth and pollution over the last few decades, the chances do not look good.
It is a much more humbling view of our role on the planet when we realize that the planet does not exist for us, but we are merely occupants of it. And though our predominant cultural mindset would have us believe that it is our economy and technological progress that matters most, the film points out the importance of realizing our actual place in the world and our connection with all things.
The film goes on to account for our use of fossil fuels and the many levels of detriment that it is doing to the ecology of the planet. Of course, the seemingly simple use of oil is bolstered by the deforestation, mass species extinction, the growing number of natural disasters, depletion of oceanic habitats, and, of course, the scourge of global warming. In actuality, the first hour of the film plays like a horror film.
However, the third act offers a glimmer of hope. At this point of the film, it seems like the entire cast changes from physicists and journalists describing the bleakness of our situation to architects and engineers who are addressing the problems. The truly encouraging aspect of the film is that the ideas they present are not merely concepts, but activities that are actually occurring. Through solar power, wind power, fungal research, geothermal heating, architectural integration, and other incredible steps forward, these ecological designers are developing new technologies based on the principles found in nature instead of our historical method of going against nature. As drastic as the first part of the film is, the end is truly inspiring.
As Mr. DiCaprio says, “Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity … We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet. ”
Though the film proposes some great solutions to the problems we face, they are all crammed into the last half hour. The inspiration found in the film to grasp a new social responsibility and rethink our technologies is only a stepping point. Fortunately, the concept alone has offered a path to follow at the end.
The DVD of the film offers a special feature that further addresses some of the steps toward a solution, but greater than that are the networking websites that have taken on the same name. The 11th Hour Project (http://www.11thhourproject.org/) connects organizations, businesses and individuals to one another, resources and information to create a sustainable world. We work to change public perceptions about climate crisis from hand wringing hopelessness to engaged, hands on problem solving. And The 11th Hour Action Group (http://11thhouraction.com/) was created, in connection with the film, to help individuals and communities take sustainable action on the local, regional and national levels. By providing a means for people to share their ideas and solutions within our framework of sustainability goals, we hope to encourage others to take similar steps.
While The 11th Hour did not make as much of a stir at the box office as An Inconvenient Truth, the films were in production at about the same time. The synchronicity in the messages should tell us something. This is a call that must be answered. Fortunately, the responses are creative, peaceful, inspiring, and joyous.