Michael Moore takes on the greens

Planet of the Humans exposes the pointlessness of green energy.

Michael Cook

Planet of the Humans is a new documentary about the environmental movement, produced by Michael Moore. It was released on YouTube on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It is free to watch. But for fans of Moore, it is probably quite painful. It is not what you might normally expect from the Oscar-winning, progressive critic of modern America.

What his latest film argues is that his old antagonists – Big Oil and Big Business – have rebadged themselves as ‘clean and green’. Environmentalism has become an ally of the capitalists. ‘Green renewable energy and industrial civilisation are one and the same’, says the narrator and director, Jeff Gibbs, a long-time associate of Moore.

In one embarrassing segment, Gibbs visits an Earth Day festival in Washington, DC. He discovers that it was part-sponsored by Toyota, CitiBank, YouTube, Caterpillar and other big corporations. And despite the hosts proclaiming that the event is solar-powered, it is in fact powered by diesel generators.

Much of the film is focused on biomass. Gibbs claims that Bill McKibben, the ‘grand poobah’ of the environmental movement in the US, has praised projects which use biomass to produce energy and has even promoted investment in them. But it turns out that in order to generate this clean, green biomass energy, forests need to be razed to the ground and tossed into huge incinerators. Similarly, Al Gore may have won a Nobel Peace Prize for his climate-change PowerPoint presentation, An Inconvenient Truth, but the film shows that he was the chairman of an investment fund, Generation Investment Management, which helped to promote logging in the Amazon rainforest. Gibbs says disdainfully that while environmentalists have attacked coal companies, they have hopped into bed with logging companies.

And what about those solar panels? As Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions, tells Gibbs, the production process is hardly green. Though advocates of solar energy claim that photovoltaic panels are made from sand, Zehner points out that sand has too many impurities. So instead they are actually made from pure quartz, which has to be mined and then melted with coal. The film shows a ghastly quartz mine in North Carolina, which is as dirty as any coal mine in West Virginia.

Wind turbines are no good either, we learn. They provide no power when there is no wind, which means they need to be supplemented by power from coal or natural gas. The film shows a windmill graveyard – after a short lifespan, the turbines wear out and need to be replaced.

All in all, Planet of the Humans shows that green energy can sometimes be just as destructive as the technology it replaces. ‘Is there anything too terrible to qualify as green energy?’, asks Gibbs.

Climate scientists and environmental groups are furious with the film. Moore and Gibbs failed to interview any non-white experts, one critic sputtered. A critic at Vox says that some of the more scandalous examples of green inefficiency are outdated and that Bill McKibbens and the Sierra Club are unjustly maligned. Some have called for the film to be taken down from YouTube.

Some of the film’s critics may have a point. Exaggeration and satire are Michael Moore’s stock in trade. He didn’t win Oscars in 2003 and 2008 for coolly setting two sides of the argument. He is a big-picture guy. In Planet of the Humans, he and Gibbs got two big things right.

First, the film is right to say that the environmental movement is a secular religion. ‘The right has religion and they have a belief in infinite fossil fuels. Our side says, “We are OK. We are going to have solar panels, wind towers”’, says Gibbs. ‘Could it be that we can’t face our own mortality. Could we have a religion we are unaware of?’, he continues. He is right. Just look at the crowds marching behind Extinction Rebellion banners chanting mantras and drenching themselves with fake blood – it is an ersatz religion.

Secondly, the film is right to say that green credentials are easy to fake. As the novelist Jean Giraudoux is reputed to have said, ‘The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.’ Companies like Amazon, Google, Tesla and even Exxon are greenwashing their products to make them more appealing to conscientious consumers. Greta Thunberg may have sailed across the Atlantic in a yacht which produces zero carbon emissions, but several crew members had to fly back to Europe after the trip, creating gazillions of emissions.

I do have some reservations about the film. Gibbs, not Moore, is the director, and Moore’s spark is missing. The film lacks those gotcha moments which give Moore’s other films their raw power. In his hilarious gun-control diatribe, Bowling for Columbine, Moore discovered a bank in Utah which gave away a rifle to customers opening up new accounts. In his film about the US health system, Sicko, he took three 9/11 responders in a boat to Guantanamo Bay looking for the free healthcare that the US government gives to terror suspects, but not to its own citizens.

But the main problem with the film is that in his rejection of green energy, Gibbs ends up advocating population control. At times, he is far more misanthropic than the people he attacks. ‘It’s not the carbon dioxide molecule destroying the planet. It’s us’, he says. Planet of the Humans is essentially channelling Paul Erhlich’s discredited 1968 book, The Population Bomb. ‘Our human presence is far beyond sustainable’, argues Gibbs.

A film made by Michael Moore was never going to appeal to everyone. Planet of the Humans sets out to knock the halo off the smug and self-righteous side of the environmental movement. It succeeds at that, and that’s good enough.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet, an online magazine based in Sydney.

Watch Planet of the Humans below:

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Gerard Barry

18th May 2020 at 2:19 pm

Kudos to Michael Moore for making this film. It’s good to see that not everyone on the left is ideologically possessed.

jan mozelewski

13th May 2020 at 2:43 pm

I doubt anybody who has lived through as many governments as I have, seen their spin dissolve like candy floss, will have ever believed that Green was all that Green. In many cases the only thing green about it is the metaphorical colour of money.
I live in the countryside. A nearby farmer has ‘diversified’ into taking in so-called green waste to make compost. The idea of putting ‘green waste’ in a bin is so satisfying for ‘green’ people in towns,

First it takes a trip in a big diesel articulated skip-lorry. (Not so green.) Then it is pilled up and….whisper it….allowed to smoulder. (Not very green either.) Of course it includes all those plastic and metal things people have in gardens…planters, labels, bits of cheap garden furniture.(definitely not green.) Not to mention all the things people throw away by accident in the wrong bin and or simply can’t be bothered to segregate. (Putting the wrong stuff in your green-waste bin is exactly the same as littering. ) The farmer also takes other ‘green-ish’ waste from the local council which includes MDF along with the metal fixings among other things.
I metal detect as a hobby. The amount of rubbish I see in once-pristine fields reminds me of low-density land-fill rather than green anything.
But hey….it salves the conscience of urban populations and serves to expunge any guilt for rampant consumerism without having to stop buying stuff.

James Knight

7th May 2020 at 7:00 pm

I’d quite like a Tesla, though. Not for it’s Green credentials which apart from local air quality are dubious, more for it’s performance. I heard the raw materials for the batteries has to be mined in China because nobody else has low enough environmental standards. Looks like a classic case of outsourcing and off-shoring the environmental impact.

Tim Wheeler

7th May 2020 at 1:14 pm

Not really on topic, but I couldn’t help laughing at the click-bait under this article. What contemptible titles “Kate Bush is nearly 65 – Try not to smile when you see her now.” The Jeremy Kyle show ethos shoved into the faces of Spiked readers. You can have a good laugh at the pathetic titles without actually taking the bait and clicking them.

Ven Oods

10th May 2020 at 9:21 am

I’m happy to say that I don’t see them on my screen.

Walter Mitty

6th May 2020 at 7:58 am

Michael Moore has become a tedious bore in recent times but the fact that environmentalists want this film banned means I an intrigued to see it.

Brandy Cluster

8th May 2020 at 1:47 am

Absolutely agree. Moore is an industrial strength narcissist but if he’s upsetting the Left we need to be right there watching.

David J

5th May 2020 at 11:01 am

His film, and its accusations, are not so much green for me, as far too black-and-white.
Anti-eco commentators tend to do the same, choosing to ignore (for example) that power generation is a mix, with no one system capable of, or being expected to, provide it all.
For example, as I type this, gas, nuclear, wind, solar are all contributing similar amounts of power to the UK National Grid. Yet gas and nuclear are there when the others are not.
As for electric vehicles, there are plenty of reasons to drive one besides being green and not creating roadside pollution. Put simply, the first time you drive a Tesla Model S is the last time you want an ICE vehicle.
Likewise, the first time you catch a Eurostar to Paris is probably the last time you think about flying or driving there.

Neil John

5th May 2020 at 10:48 pm

The first time you fly to Italy you realise the Eurostar to Paris was good, the trip across Paris was bad and the TGV from Paris to Italy was absolutely awful, and 14 Hours on several trains was totally wasted.

Tom Forrester-Paton

12th May 2020 at 4:34 am

“Power generation is a mix”. Sounds cute, but it’s twaddle. The key desideratum of electrical power supply is stability. It does NOT like multiple fuels, and it especially doesnn’t like them when they are intermittent.

Until the eco-fascists came along and fkd it up with their fantasy ‘alternatives’, power supply had reached an enviable state of reliability and economy, based on using whatever fuel was most suited to the area; hydro if you lived in Scotland or the Snowy Mountains, nuclear if you were a grow-up, and not a bed-wetting catastrophist, and coal if you had lots of, er, coal. And even coal was being burned cleanly, it’s only residue being CO2, a highy beneficial boon to plant life the world over.

Then along came the greenies.

Tom Forrester-Paton

12th May 2020 at 4:42 am

Further to my remark about CO2 as a boon to plant food, see NASA’s view:

K Tojo

5th May 2020 at 10:29 am

I haven’t watched the movie yet but, judging by the review here, it is all about hypocrisy in the environmentalist movements. What is really needed is a fundamental questioning of their whole ethos and their dubious science.

It’s a start I suppose. At least one very conspicuous Lefty is prepared to look beyond the planet-savers’ sanctimonious posturing. He is an anti-capitalist at heart though and his main criticism seems to be that the righteous eco-warriors are just closet capitalists.

Walter Mitty

6th May 2020 at 8:00 am

He’s really bad at anti-capitalism almost hypocritical which is very ironic if he’s calling out hypocrites.

Brandy Cluster

8th May 2020 at 1:48 am

Moore usually has an enthusiastic and gullible audience of ‘useful idiots’ in the under 30 demographic.

Mike Smith

5th May 2020 at 10:21 am

A very thought provoking film and worth a watch . It’s points are very much what many sceptics have been saying for years “ There’s no such thing as a free lunch “
Watch it and make your minds up.

George Lennan

5th May 2020 at 9:21 am

The film’s conclusion is that we need to destroy civilisation to save the Earth. It’s pushing back against the green movement alright, but from the far side.

Dominic Straiton

5th May 2020 at 8:24 am

There is only one thing worse than a poor communist and thats a rich communist.

James Hunt

5th May 2020 at 12:16 am

There is a growing reactionary instinct in the American pseudo-socialist Bernie left that does not exist in the British left too much.

T Zazoo

5th May 2020 at 2:07 am

Right, the growing reactionary British Left is full-on socialist. No pseudo.

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