An Inscrutable Youth


[Movie Review] I took my 7 year old daughter to see An Inconvenient Truth this weekend. For a movie billed as “The most terrifying film you will ever see” (enough to scare away her mother) you might think that I was being somewhat irresponsible. But I had read the reviews (including the family oriented ones) and decided that there was a good chance that it had been poorly sold. And I was right.

This is a movie at the level of 9 to 14 year olds. For everyone else, there is not alot new. The basic facts of global warming are in the scientific journals, the idea that it may cause damage to ocean currents is out there and the experience of the last two years in storms and heat cannot be ignored. You don’t need to see this movie to make yourself more aware. What you need to do is take your children to see it. And when I arrived at the movie theatre this weekend, my daughter was the youngest person in the room (that shouldn’t surprise you) but I was pretty much the second youngest (and that surprised me). Think about it. The theatre was filled with people who would not be around to see the full consequences of it and, in reality, were likely to be in the least favourable position to do something about it.

Here is why it is good for kids. First, Al Gore — appropriately assisted by Keynote (on a Mac) — is a great lecturer. Essentially, the movie centres around a lecture and the presentation of the facts is clean, graphical (including Simpson’s like cartoons), non-technical and decidedly non-sensationalist. Second, it presents a nice view of the world we live in. It shows how connected we are and it shows how things are changing. Finally, it doesn’t preach. Hardly a suggestion as to what people should do. Although there is a suggestion as to what governments might do and, as it turned out, this resonated. It is a tad long for a 7 year old but add a few years and that shouldn’t be a problem.

And the impact, well, it was interesting. It stimulated a good dinner conversation, aimed at filling in the bits. And it started her asking alot of questions. The main one was one I didn’t really have a good answer for — at least for a 7 year old. The question was why Australia stood out as a country that had not agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So then we discussed who might answer it and my daughter decided to write to him directly. Originally, I had thought about a letter but was told, convincingly, that an email would be better. We wouldn’t waste paper that was coming from the much needed trees.

So the following email was composed entirely by my daughter and emailed to the PM today.

Dear Mr Prime Minister,
my name is B Gans, I am 7 years old, this is a question I want to ask you.
Why did Australia disagree with putting less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? I am asking you this because, I watched An Inconvienient Truth, and it said every country except the U.S and Australia, disagreed with putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
B Gans.

I’ll let you know if she receives an answer.

In the meantime, B trotted off from this and, off her own bat, started composing a PowerPoint presentation on Global Warming (including her own research from the Internet). I have no idea what possessed her to do this (although Al Gore’s example is the likely cause) but I’ll post a link when it is done (here is the link: Global Warming).

Finally, let me end this post by complaining bitterly to the marketing and distribution people of An Inconvenient Truth. The selling of this as something sensationalist is wrong on every level given what the movie is. The movie’s point is that climate change is anything but sensationalist but actually remarkably pedestrian. To provide that kind of marketing diminishes that point and what is more drives away those who ought to be seeing it (families) and does nothing to attract others. Terrifying movies only do that when they are not real.

[PS: As a disclaimer, the movie’s web site provides a calculator of your greenhouse emissions. I did this and I seem to about about 13,000 pounds (below the US average of 15,000) but that is mainly because of the milder climate here in Melbourne. If I changed our car back to a station wagon it would fall about 300 pounds.] [Update: To reinforce my contention that the movie has been billed as unnecessarily scary (away from the clear intention of those who made the movie), I showed my daughter the trailer (click here). Her reacton: “no wonder people thought it would be scary. If they advertise the movie like this, it isn’t true at all. They will make less money as people wont come and see it.” Some so-called marketing guru needs to be fired when a 7 year old can work that out.] [Update 2: Here is B’s PowerPoint presentation, click here.] [Update 3: picked up this post and put an edited version in their edition. Here it is.]
15 Responses to "An Inscrutable Youth"
  1. B.: What a great presentation! Well done!! I hope you will show it to all the kids at school.

    Joshua: Well done, too! I’m sure Terence Tao wasn’t doing ppt presentations when he was seven. đŸ™‚

  2. I looked at the calculator on It is a touch simplistic. In particular, it seems to assume that everyone has exactly one car. That’s true for some of us.

    Anyway, if you traded in your Canyonero for a Toyota Carolla, then the calculator would remove 5000 pounds from your emissions. Of course, you might need to ditch a kid or two.

  3. I will be anxious to hear if J Howard replies. Mind you B also sounds like she’s already an economist in training!

%d bloggers like this: