Before I watched Planet of the Humans, I read scathing reviews from people I know and respect who absolutely trashed the movie. The reviews said it was made by ‘newly woke’ white male ‘environmentalists’ who on an endless search for relevancy made a shitty documentary featuring tired and outdated information about green technology and trashed noble environmental heros such as Bill McKibben and 350.org.
The message in my echo chamber was that it was pure bullshit and should be avoided. They said the movie was damaging and dangerous. Many people on my feed shared the reviews but refused to watch the movie. I also shared a scathing review before I watched it. But then I read a review from Derrick Jensen, who posted this on Facebook: “I just watched this yesterday. it’s really fantastic. it’s biocentric, and what we need to help return environmentalism back to being about saving wild nature and not about trying to power the industrial economy a bit longer. The end left me sobbing.”
So, I watched it. The end left me gasping for air.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few days. I didn’t like the movie. It had little artistic flair and the narrative felt sloppy. I didn’t totally trust the narrator and wondered about the legitimacy of a lot of the footage. The main criticisms of the reviews I had read questioned the context and timing of their information. Where and when was it all taken? How outdated was their information? And man, poor Bill McKibben — they really did paint him a fool.
There are images that I will never be able to get out of my mind, particularly one of a live cow being thrown into an incinerator. Nor will I forget the fierce voice of Vandana Shiva, who says, “Our minds are being manipulated to give power to illusions, not in terms of how life is enriched, but how life is destroyed.” One of my biggest takeways was from a women of colour (wait, didn’t the reviews say no one of colour was featured?)
I’m not a scientist, or a journalist, nor am I an expert on economics, or green energy. I simply cannot speak to the accuracy of the film, but I can speak to the underlying theme of it.
I have participated in the destruction of our world for the sake of convenience, comfort, and greed my whole life. Since I was a child, I have felt a sorrowful ache in my bones. I know that our way of life is not only cruel and unfair to those with whom we share our planet, but also robs us from beauty and meaning.
As good or as bad as this movie is, it makes the point that if we want to continue life on Earth we need to transform not just our technologies, but our entire cultural mindset. We might measure it in rising CO2, but climate change is very obviously the consequence of out-of-fucking-control human destruction and consumption.
If the environmental movement or our collective hope is gathered around an idea that we can swap out technologies and keep on keeping on, we are dangerously and tragically deluded.
Reading all the reviews imploring me not to watch it served a great reminder for me to think for myself. So, while I can’t comment on the facts behind of the film, I applaud the truth-telling that was woven throughout. We simply need to stop believing that green technologies alone are ‘solutions’ to climate change.
I believe this movie is a noble attempt at shoving our noses into our own hubris and points out the tragedy of anthropocentrism.
Our focus on transformation shouldn’t (just) be in our technologies, but in our very assumptions of who we are and how we live on this beautiful planet.
The movie tell us that we must make large scale behavioural and cultural change immediately. This pandemic shows us that we can. Good timing for this message. I hope enough of us hear it.
My review of the reviews: two stars.
Watch it yourself.