Global warming isn't funny. I've known this since elementary school, and have always been conscious about recycling, driving a fuel efficient car, etc. Even so, the trailer for The 11th Hour cracked me up. The flashing images of environmental disasters made me feel like I was watching a bad progressive rock video or some lame promotional piece designed to market the Armageddon to teenagers. Then came the voiceover saying that in the fight against global warming, "it's not just the 11th hour, it's 11:59 and 59 seconds." It's all so gimmicky that it's hard not to laugh at little Leo's propaganda film, but once you get past the cheese, you start to realize that it really is 11:59 and 59 seconds.
After the random images of flash floods, lava flows, and melting ice caps subside, The 11th Hour morphs into a conventional documentary. Leonardo DiCaprio narrates, and a variety of experts illustrate exactly why the world is going to hell in a hand-basket. Most of us have heard it all before, but the documentary does do a rock solid job of explaining how our actions impact the environment. As a species we have come to separate ourselves from nature, not realizing that this puts us at odds with the planet which sustains us.
Most people are aware of the factors that contribute to climate change, but The 11th Hour goes back to the root of the problem and explains the evolution of global warming. Our use of fossil fuels has accelerated population growth and resource depletion, and if left unchecked, the future of earth's inhabitants is uncertain. Natural disasters like Katrina will increase in frequency and severity, deforestation will lead to desertification, oceans will stagnate, and a huge number of species will die out. There is no guarantee that humans won't be among them.
All of this begs the question, what can we do? How can we possibly make a difference with our hybrid cars and organic cotton shirts when huge corporations continue to pollute, create waste, and destroy resources on a mind boggling scale? The film explains how our government is rigged to side with corporations, how the media and peer pressure drives consumerism, and how we as individuals can begin to stand up for our values and make a difference. If we want to live in a simpler, more sustainable manner, it's going to have to start at home, in our communities, and in the choices we make with our wallet.
The 11th Hour isn't exactly fun family entertainment, but it reminded me of the videos we used to watch in school. If you're going to be stuck taking notes in a dark room, you might as well be there with Leonardo DiCaprio. It's a strong educational tool that carefully backs its arguments, and it even comes in earth-friendly cardboard packaging (no Amray case!). Just watch out for the industrial strength glue on the plastic sleeve—the only thing more depressing than the end of the world is wrecking the paper cover of a brand new DVD.
An 11th Hour featurette gallery helps us to deal with the scary information we've just been given with "Nature's Operating Instructions and Solutions" and "Solutions We Have Right Now." Armed with survival tools, you can then delve into "Wonder of the World", "Our Reactions in the Face of Environmental Collapse" and "Religious Perspectives".