"Time to Choose", Director/Writer Charles Ferguson and Writer Chad Beck's new environmental documentary narrated by actor Oscar Isaac may very well be the best film of 2016, as well as the most important one to be viewed.
For a warning of impending disaster, Ferguson has given us a beautiful film that has optimism woven through its fabric. Sure it discusses the largest drivers of climate change in horrific detail. But repeatedly Ferguson and Beck assure us that we have the technology at our disposal to stop climate change. Not only is the climate changing, but the science, attitude and fortitude necessary to stop this catastrophe are dramatically evolving.
We inherited a beautiful home, the film makers show us. Their tone is far from fire and brimstone. We have done great things. But many of the changes that we've made are imperiling our future.
Experts like Nobel Prize Winner and Former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu tell us how small alterations make for huge differences in life on earth. Larger changes, like the melting of Himalayan glaciers and Pacific coral reefs, are undermining support for life as we know it. Dr. James Hansen, from Columbia University's Earth Institute, graphically shows how rapid increases in sea level due to the melting of Greenland's ice sheets will submerge large cities, destroying homes of 600 million people and triggering runaway climate change.
Two thirds of global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels. The use of these fuels chokes the planets long range future as it kills it's population on a daily basis. Toxicologist Lynn Crosby points to the rise in asthma and cancer in the U.S. One million acres of mountain top removal blasted off 500 mountains, not only scars the once beautiful Appalachian mountains, but pollutes the downstream watershed with heavy toxins. Jennifer Hall-Massey describes how this contact killed her brother and poisoned 6 neighbors within ten houses. Toxic sludge ponds dot the landscape and coal dust hangs heavy in the air. Soot alone kills over ten thousand Americans every year.
But that is nowhere near the lethal impact felt by the world's largest coal country. Beijing and Shanghai, beautiful at night, but shrouded during the day, burn as much coal as the entire rest of the world. The danger to their residents is often long term. Ten million Chinese have Black Lung. Over one third of their lakes and half of their rivers are polluted.
Death comes quicker to those mining the coal. 200,000 coal miners have died in Chinese mines. As this film was being shot, a worker commenting on conditions is killed live on film.
But help is on the way! Costs of alternative renewable energy sources are rapidly going down. Renewables are now competitive with coal. And the fuel - the sun and wind - are free! As Amory Lovins, Chairman/Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute, has chronicled, costs per kilowatt hour are now less than any other source. And, as Professor Wu Cheng, from the University of Taiwan drolly observes, no one has died of wind pollution!
But danger lurks not only in the fossil fuels, but with those pedaling their use. Sierra Club's chief Michael Brune warns that vested interests - like Exxon, Chevron and Peabody Coal - will fight change. In 2013, $650 billion was invested in exploration to find new fossil fuel reserves. The large energy corporations are waging an offensive against transition to alternative fuels. They fund groups like CORE News to attack environmentalists and appeal to the right wing low information voters. Before he was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards, Don Blankenship, head of Massey Energy, sixth largest coal company in the U.S., claimed against all contrary evidence that the planet was actually cooling!
Not to be outdone, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Head of the U.S. Senate Committee of Environmental and Public Works, called climate change the greatest hoax. Inhofe said that it was arrogant to think that man could change what God had done . . . and that God would protect us! (James Inhofe, "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future," WND Books, Washington, D.C.)
In the end, the film makers show how the struggle to address climate change is a struggle against poverty. Renewable resources are cheaper. They provide dramatic improvement to the lives in underserved areas of the world. Large energy company's concentrate wealth and perpetuate a system which disadvantages the poorest, as well as threatening us all.
For all these reasons, it seems like it is certainly . . . Time to Choose!