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I Need to Wake Up to "An Inconvenient Truth"

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Nov 22, 2006

A Dharma-Inspired Movie Review : www.ClimateCrisis.net

"[Seeing the film is]... like watching a murder trial where you and everyone you know has been charged with killing the Earth." - First Magazine

Singapore -- I told my friends this - "Please watch 'An Inconvenient Truth'. If not for yourself, at least for your children's sake, and your children's children's sake." AIT is probably the most important film of our decade. It is one of those films, which if unheeded by all, will surely destroy us all. It is about "a global catastrophe of our own making" - which we still have time to unmake.

There is no more time for denial or procrastination. As Mark Twain said, "What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so." And in the words of Winston Churchill, "The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences." If you believe in karma and rebirth, you will be reborn into a world of your making. Will your future world be worse than the one you might be guilty of making terrible now? What makes you so sure you will not be reborn into a hellish hothouse or ice-age world that is the future Earth?

The First Noble Truth, as taught by the Buddha, says that unenlightened life is fraught with dissatisfactions. Indeed, much suffering (Dukkha) is entailed in life. Like the First Noble Truth on our existential inconveniences, some truths are indeed inconvenient. But to deludedly and conveniently ignore them eventually leads to greater suffering. AIT's subheading says - "A Global Warning". No wrong spelling here. Touring the nations like Al Gore did to spread the green message, the film serves to warn the world on the compounding problem of global warming. The tagline reads, "By far the most terrifying film you will ever see." Indeed - it's not an imaginary horror flick; it's a realistic picture about the devastation of global warming so far and how much more havoc it can wreck if we remain indifferent to caring for the planet. Don't be mistaken though - the film is not so much of gloom and doom - it has subtle wit and sings of much hope too.

In case you have been away from Earth, or had repeatedly and successfully ignored calls of concerns for the environment, global warming, for the non-initiate, is the phenomenon of the Earth heating up (and thus cooling down) in excess due to unnatural build-up of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide - mainly by human use of fossil fuels - be it by use of electricity in households and factories, or even use of petrol while driving. In case you have already seen the movie, or are sure you understand the impact of global warming, just skip to
http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction/whatyoucando/index.html to see what you can do to reduce global warming. Yes, above all, your personal action to save the planet is more important than anything else written here. In short, be as green as you can. If you think you are already green, you can probably be even more green, or persuade more to be just as green.

The side effects of global warming are already here, and worse will be on the way if we do not change our ways. As we speak, our recorded history has never seen such high frequencies of extreme abnormal weather conditions such as flash floods, scorching heat waves, wild hurricanes, receding glaciers, melting ice-caps, rising sea-levels... Countless humans and animals have already perished from extreme weather in the recent years. Disease is also on the rise. Many lifeforms are also becoming increasingly off sync from their natural life cycles. Even the political "animals" called humans are being affected. Are these not enough symptoms of the problem at large? Just think the damage of Hurricane Katrina alone for instance, in terms of the massive loss of lives.

Perhaps another inconvenient truth is the fact that, according to the Climate Crisis website, "Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters. Their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane, which they exhale with every breath." Farm animals also produce more waste than all the entire human population, which also contains Methane - which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. (See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/1021 for details on how meat consumption hurts the Earth.) Please eat less meat, if any at all.

Gore explains that short-sightedness deludes us into believing that enjoying life by going for profit with disregard for the Earth is okay. Without the Earth in a good state, you cannot enjoy life at all. Which comes first? The Earth or "gold"? Well, the Earth is worth more than its weight in gold! In an interview, Gore said, "Some truths are hard to hear, because if you really hear them - and understand that they are in fact true - then you have to change, and change can be quite inconvenient." In his similarly titled book, he continues, “... but inconvenient truths do not go away just because they are not seen. Indeed when they are not responded to, their significance doesn't diminish; it grows.” Yes, things become more inconvenient!

The analogy of the complacent frog was used to illustrate the fact that while a frog will leap out of water that is already hot, it is likely to just sit in water that gradually heats up, till it is boiled alive. The "comfort" zone pushed to the extreme will not only become uncomfortable, it will kill. Psychologically, many humans are just like the frog. We become accustomed to the disaster we humans help engineer. That is the real human disaster - of ignorance and apathy. There is the tendency to deny or despair. But as Gore says, "We must guard against the illusion that the crisis is too big to solve. We have the solutions. The only thing that's missing is political will, although that is a renewable resource." The well-being of the Earth might not be renewable if we do not muster enough personal will to do our part in time. Do we need to wait for governments to force us to face the inconvenient truth? Let us not renew the politics of selfish greed - personally or collectively.

The biggest challenge facing civilisation and globalisation is a moral one, not a political one. And it is a collective problem as much as it is a personal one. Just as Gore attempts to spread his message city by city, person by person, to accumulate support to make up the threshold needed for reversing the situation, we too need to make up the critical mass. If we are not of the positive critical mass, we make up the other critically wrong mass that is bound for mass destruction. We the masses can be weapons of mass destruction too. Political terrorism is not the only global problem. We are terrorists too - of the planet's life itself. A big problem is that many think they are not part of the problem, or that they can't be part of the solution. Truth is, if you do not become part of the solution, you are probably part of the problem. Since the solution takes every effort, every effort counts.

I'm going to encourage more to see the movie. So what if it's no longer screening where you are? I'm going to buy the book and DVD to share. In fact, I'm going to screen it for groups of friends. We owe it to every Earthling human and animal to see it, to comprehend the magnitude of the problem and the changes we need to make in our lives. If we do not realise the First Noble Truth, we'll never get around to the ultimate truth. True Happiness or supreme Enlightenment will always be far away without adequate compassion and wisdom for the world we live in.

Humans affect the environment, just as the environment affects humans. We are all intricately intertwined in a single web of interdependence - so much so that drastic changes in the climate result in drastic domino effects on our otherwise harmonious co-existence. Our actions reap collective karma, and karma can bear effects through the wraths of nature. Extreme mistreating of the environment leads to extreme effects like extreme natural disasters. We need to shift gears, to seek and tread the delicate Middle Path of moderation - before the day of unearthly reckoning comes too soon. The song that played while the credits of the movie rolled (with interjections of green tips) was titled "I Need to Wake Up" by Melissa Etheridge. How very appropriate! Here are its lyrics -

Have I been sleeping?
I’ve been so still
Afraid of crumbling
Have I been careless?
Dismissing all the distant rumblings
Take me where I am supposed to be
To comprehend the things that I can’t see

Cause I need to move
I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now

And as a child
I danced like it was 1999
My dreams were wild
But the promise of this new world
Would be mine
Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth
To listen to an inconvenient truth

Well I need to move
I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now

I am not an island
I am not alone
I am my intentions
Trapped here in this flesh and bone

And I need to move
I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now

I want to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up
I’ve been asleep
And I need to wake up
Now



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