Consuming the “Planet of the Humans:” The Most Important Documentary of the Century

Photo: Michael Donnelly.

Back in 2007, the environmental organization 350.org was founded by author/academic Bill McKibben. The name refers to the theory that 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere is the highest concentration that can occur before the Life Support system unravels for good.

It already was at 385 ppm when 350 formed. It is now at 410ppm! Clearly we are losing the battle against Climate Chaos.

Over the past decade, my Flint pal, filmmaker Jeff Gibbs, his ally Ozzie Zehner (author of “Green Illusions” and a graduate of Flint’s Kettering University), me and many others have been asking the question “Why are we losing on this when we know the facts?”

Jeff (co-producer/musical score creator of “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Fahrenheit 11/9,” etc.) and allies have produced (I am admittedly biased) the most dismaying Eco-documentary of the Century – one that examines “Why?”

“Planet of the Humans” premiered at the gloriously community-restored State Theatre July 31st at the 15th Traverse City, MI Film Festival with three sold-out/standing ovation showings followed by Q & A’s with the creators. “Planet” presents the underlying Ecosystem facts and then examines what we have been doing to address the issue and the lack of success. The basic conclusion is that we have been following corporate foundation-financed, Democratic Party-tied misleadership and that is why we are where we are.

The bottom line is that there are: Too many Clever Apes; consuming too much; too rapidly. And ALL efforts on addressing the climate costs are reduced to illusions/delusions designed to keep our over-sized human footprint and out-of-control consumption chugging along without any consumer sacrifices or loss of consumption-based profits.

We have ample scientific evidence of what happens when ANY specie expands/consumes to a point beyond the carrying capacity of its habitat. As I always note: “We could power the grid on Unicorn farts. But is we keep on breeding and consuming at the same, or likely higher, rates; we’ll still eat the planet.”

Forget all you have heard about how “Renewable Energy” is our salvation. It is all a myth that is very lucrative for some. Feel-good stuff like electric cars, etc. Such vehicles are actually powered by coal, natural gas… or dead salmon in the Northwest.

Very Inconvenient Truths

Some of the reality presented:

+ all “alternative energy” itself is fossil-fuel-based. None of it could or did exist without fossil fuels. Solar panel themselves are made with metallurgical coal and quartz – both derived from blowing up mountains. The top beneficiaries of tax subsidies to promote solar? The Koch Bothers!;

+ same with wind and even hydro and Nukes, as the essential major ingredient in the creation of cement and steel is…coal. None of these technologies existed, nor could they exist, without fossil fuels. The grid cannot even operate without fossil fuel-derived steam-generated baseloads – in the spring when hydro is surging, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) cuts off wind power (and still has to pay its providers after a lawsuit), yet has to keep the Boardman Coal plant (Oregon’s top carbon polluter) running in order to balance the baseload. Even eCon Musk’s famed battery plant in Nevada is powered by…fracked natural gas. The huge bird and desert-destroying Ivanpah Solar array in California also has fracked natural gas as an essential ingredient;

+ the documentary depants the ubiquitous memes/reports of how “Germany gets its energy from renewables.” It trots out footage of a series of the top misleaders stating one after the other: “Germany gets 30% from renewables,” “40%,” “50%,” “60%”,… The reality is that Germany gets just 3.5% of all its renewable energy from solar and wind combined. A whopping 70% of what passes for “Green” energy in Germany comes from Biomass – grinding up trees in the Amazon and the US Southeast and shipping them to Europe where Germany (and Great Britain) burns them for electrons and get Carbon Credits for doing so!;

+ the other part of the Germany myth is that “Germany gets off coal…” The reality here is that Germany gets 37% of its energy from coal and is even trying to level one of its last intact forests to get at the coal underneath. The only thing currently stopping the destruction of the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest is mass protests;

+ the top beneficiaries of Biomass are, of course, Big Timber giants. The Koch brothers, again, own Georgia-Pacific, the second largest stump creator in the world after Weyerhaeuser. G-P’s two mills in Oregon are the state’s #4 and #5 carbon polluters, as well.

A loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires, and baby these are the days of miracle and plunder…” ~ apologies to Paul Simon

Planet Executive Producer Michael Moore noted at the premiere that it won’t get us out of this predicament to just challenge the usual suspects. We have to hold bad actors on “our” side’s feet to the fire, as well, if we are to survive this one.

So, Planet examines a range of policy influencers/professional environmentalists/opportunists, etc. and even lets them hang themselves. It not only takes on the obvious bad guys like the Kochs, it lets folks like McKibben, Al Gore, Richard Branson, Robert Kennedy, Jr, who are ostensibly on “our” side, hang themselves by showing clips of them speaking to environmentalists and then clips of them speaking to industry about all the profits to be made.

McKibben is shown twice praising Biomass (they gave him every chance to condemn it), interspersed with a scene of a mountaintop removal operation in his home state of Vermont – for a wind farm!

Robert Kennedy, Jr. informs his fellow millionaires of all the profits to be made on “green” energy. Al Gore basically admits it’s all about diversion and profits. Branson, like eCon Musk, of course, is solely in it for the money.

Fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg got down to it and basically bought the Sierra Club with tens of millions in donations tied to the Club promoting one of his cash cows, Fracked Natural Gas, as the “Bridge Fuel to a Green Energy future!”

Where From Here?

Like “Bowling Columbine,” “Planet of the Humans” asks the pertinent questions on a serious, existential issue and counts on us figuring out solutions, rather than trotting out a range of possible ones. It opens up the discussion.

Sure, “Planet,” Jeff, Ozzie and Michael will come under fierce fire from those who benefit from the current half (at best) measures. Already, many of the organizations and people – a huge multimillion dollar Climate Campaign industry in itself – taken to task have panned it, without ever even seeing it. The final version was completed by the gang at 2am on the 31st,! Ultimately, there is no rebuttal that is legit. It must be addressed or it is over for us Clever Apes and many more innocent species.

Getting the info out there and inspiring answers is paramount, so major efforts are underway. As to where the film goes from here, that depends on time and money. Some distributors are interested (that’s one thing that film festivals are about – hooking up artists/films with distributors for wide release) and the creators are considering a road show where the film is booked in various cities (DC, SF, LA, etc.) for a few days at a time with Q & A sessions.

Ideally, there would be a Netflix series, an Eco 60 Minutes along the lines of Moore’s former TV Nation series, that would have the time to examine the numerous pertinent such existential threats of the Anthropocene.

Orange Crush 2020

After attending a Family Reunion in Southern Michigan where of 100 people (all of whom I very much like), only four were older than me!, I picked up another Flint crony, John Sinclair, at a conference in Lansing about how to go about implementing Dispensaries January 1st after Michigan’s recent Cannabis Legalization in Michigan and we headed North for three days at the Donnelly family retreat (since 1954) at Loon Lake. It’s always been sort of an old school Salon up there ever since our parents’ and their visionary pals first set it up. As usual, there were lots of family and friends and great conversations/debates around. John hadn’t been up since 1962! Then again, he’s been rather busy.

We went from there to Traverse City for the premiere. My Flint St. Michael’s high school classmate Janet Ward, let us stay at her place in nearby Sutton’s Bay while she is off with her husband on an epic boat trip. Everything she told me about the festival came true – a huge community-supported event with fine films, fine people and fine discussions. Over 120,000 attendees gather in the 15,000 person town for the festival. A packed, but upbeat crowd. There are more wonderful films at numerous venues one would like to watch than one possibly can. They even showed “Woodstock” at a lovely beachside park one evening, honoring its 50th Anniversary! This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to the incomparable Lily Tomlin. After 15 years, they’ve really got it down.

Flintoids Moore, Donnelly and Sinclair.

At the premiere’s after party, I met nothing but great people. The main topics of discussion were: how do we deal with what we just saw and how do we deal with the Mad Emperor? Michael Moore makes a compelling case that the 2020 election will also be decided by turnout in Michigan (and WI, Ohio and PA).

In 2018, Michigan had a few progressive Initiatives on the ballot – primarily, the cannabis legalization one and one against gerrymandering. That led to a large turnout and the state was flipped from Red to Blue. The criminal GOP administration of Flint poisoner Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette has been replaced by Democrats. Michael’s theory is that we need to repeat that in 2020 in all states that have an Initiative/Referendum process, turn out the vote and end this sorry racist, authoritarian episode. And you can count on Michael and allies doing all they can to bring that about.

It won’t be easy. THIS is what we are up against:


Photo by Michael Donnelly.

I went with a sister, a brother and three cousins to a Blues show at a rural Eagles Club. It was 250 white geezers and one Black guy (the excellent drummer). In general, the above photo profile fits. However, libertarians that they are, smoking was allowed at the outside patios – cigs, stogies and weed! Most people were considerate enough to sit along the edge with the wind blowing their smoke away from everyone else. The 2018 legalization vote allowed for private clubs where smoking is allowed. John Sinclair and allies are hoping to get another Initiative on the 2020 ballot that will allow open-to-the-public cannabis cafes – that should turn out some voters.

John talks about how weird it is that he has gone from pariah to hero in Michigan…and he’s never changed at all. Kinda the case with all visionaries, as Jeff and Michael already have plenty of experience with.

It is way past time to vote the bastards out, demand the Democrats put forth candidates worth voting for and get a handle on consumer culture-driven carbon pollution and the myths that abet it.

PS: One final note. Michael Moore, Jeff Gibbs and John Sinclair all went to the same high school – Davison High. Davison HS had a Hall of Fame and numerous people nominated Michael. Michael nominated John. “Had,” because rather than vote these reprobates in, they decided to eliminate the entire Hall of Fame!

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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