Planet of the Humans: A Critique
So, it turns out that it’s not just in nutrition that people spread misinformation via documentaries.
I’ve spoken for a while about the parallels between nutrition and climate change when it comes to the spreading of pseudo-scientific information.
If you’ve not read my critique of The Game Changers on Netflix, you can read that here
That was an example of misinformation being spread on a topic in order to push an agenda, namely veganism.
‘Planet of the Humans’ was recently released on YouTube, produced by Michael Moore and, because it’s Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9-11, Bowling for Columbine), it has got quite a lot of attention.
Moore is an excellent film maker and storyteller, and his track record of uncovering conspiracies or hidden agendas is impressive.
His previous films have been thoroughly fact-checked and are mostly pretty accurate.
So there were understandably high hopes for Planet of the Humans, which is narrated by Moore’s co-collaborator Jeff Gibbs.
It makes some pretty bold claims.
Planet of the Humans argues that renewable energy is worse for the planet than fossil fuels.
It claims that the climate movement has been bought and sold by billionaire capitalists.
And it argues that the only reason environmentalists don’t talk about population control is because “it would be bad for business.”
The Game Changers threw misinterpreted, biased, or cherry-picked studies at its viewers in order to convince them of its underlying message.
In Planet of the Humans, evidence of any kind to back up these extraordinary claims (particularly evidence of an extraordinary nature), is sadly lacking.
What it does not lack, however, is a generous serving of most of the hallmarks of misinformation.
‘Tar everything with the same brush’? Check.
We saw this with meat and processed foods in The Game Changers, now Planet of the Humans does the same.
It starts with Biomass, which actually is a net negative for the environment.
But Wind and solar power, and indeed all forms of renewable energy, are grouped in with biomass, and are the subject of false and misleading claims about their efficiency, cost and electricity generation.
Solar, for example, produces far more electricity than is claimed in the film, and the claims that are made about its efficiency are out of date by more than a decade.
Wind, too, is untruthfully criticised, and when ‘evidence’ is produced to show the electricity percentages in Germany, it unfortunately doesn’t show that at all (instead showing overall energy production, including gas for heating buildings, petroleum that fuels cars, etc).
The unfortunate extension of the deleterious effects of biomass to other forms of energy only serves to reduce the overall credibility of the film.
The misinformation signature moves continue.
‘Facts intertwined with misleading implications?’ Check
The film correctly points out that, when you charge your electric vehicle with electricity coming from a coal-fuelled generating plant, that you are effectively running your electric vehicle on fossil fuels.
But the vast majority of the economy as a whole is still based on fossil fuels.
We don’t yet have completely green electricity supplies everywhere.
There has to be a period of transition – and that is what is happening, as the move to green alternatives hastens.
As with any transition period, it’s going to be riddled with apparent contradictions.
You’ve moved house, but your bank still has you registered at your old address.
You break up with a partner, but some of your stuff is still in their bedroom.
These things are in transition, and any inference that you haven’t truly moved house, or broken up with your ex, or bought a green vehicle, is frankly ridiculous.
Then there’s ‘leaving out massive chunks of relevant information’ – Check!
The film criticises ‘corporate’ organisations for their backing of bogus environmental causes (particularly 350.org, who actually withdrew support for biomass a pretty long time ago).
If the corporate capture of the environmental movement is the problem, it’s puzzling why the film has almost nothing to say about corporations themselves.
You know, the fossil fuel companies and electric utilities that lied about climate science for 30 years?
The climate denial campaign is not mentioned at all.
And, finally, the old classic – ‘fake experts making sweeping statements using anecdotal evidence, or no evidence at all’. Check, Check, Check. Too many ‘check’s to even mention in detail.
With all of the out-of-date information, it does seem as though much of this film was captured a long time ago, and perhaps explains why it was released on YouTube rather than a larger streaming service.
But the fact that it comes now, at a time when the momentum behind climate change is building, is disappointing.
The film criticises renewable energy heavily, instead concluding that population control is the required solution.
I’m not one for politics, but, notwithstanding the fact that the film noticeably lacks any non-white participation, population control has more in common with anti-immigration hate groups than progressive climate action.
So in fact, a movie that purports to care about the environment and the future of humanity and yet seeks to undermine support for the very things we must do to save this planet, and ourselves, is worse than a disappointment. It’s reckless.
Fortunately, some things remain within our control.
We live in a world where we are able to discern bullshit when we see it.
And we are also able to control our day to day actions in line with the evidence.
That, as ever, applies as much to nutrition as it does to climate change.
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