Planet of the Humans (2019) - Review
Updated: Oct 13
One of the hottest topics prior to the Covid-19 pandemic was global warming or climate change and the urgency to act to save our environment. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade, climate has definitely been changing. One noticeable change could be seen when you look at the different seasons. For example, in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, we either go from cold to hot or hot to cold. There is no middle season of Spring or Autumn anymore. Is this caused by the pollution of our environment caused by man or is it Mother Nature just going through its normal change of climate cycle. That has been the debate for the past 50 years between environmentalist and politicians. I am sure human intervention has not helped the matter. The current trend in this battle is the rise of the use of green energy such as using solar and wind energy instead of fossil fuels. This is basically the premise of the documentary called “Planet of the Humans”.
The film is written, directed, and produced by Jeff Gibbs. It is also produced and promoted by none other than Michael Moore. I have been a fan of Michael Moore since he released “Roger & Me” back in 1989. The film premiered at the Traverse City Film festival in July 2019. Michael Moore released the documentary on YouTube on April 21, 2020 on the eve of Earth Day. The movie is to be available for 30 days on Youtube. The film features, through clips and footage, the following people and organizations: Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Richard Branson, Robert F Kennedy Jr., Michael Bloomberg, Van Jones, Vinod Khosla, Koch Brothers, Vandana Shiva, General Motors, 350.org, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Nature Conservancy, Elon Musk, Tesla. Does this documentary drive their point across? Let us find out.
This documentary attempts to bring to light the corporate ties linked to the environmental movement and demonstrate the different flaws in its structure. The message of the film is that the green movement was sold out to corporate America and some wealthy interests. In addition, it tries to prove that the environmental movement message to the public is flawed and misleading. The film demonstrates this through a series of interviews (or clips of past interviews) with the people mentioned above and attempt to demonstrate if they are saying the truth or not. In most cases the public are told half truths. The documentary is praised by many for bringing to light the issues with Biomass energy, which is energy generated by burning wood chips. However, at the same time criticized for portraying wind and solar energy as well as electric cars, as leaving the same carbon footprint as fossil fuels. Many claim this information was outdated as presented.
Documentaries in general are created to bring a specific subject matter to life and hopefully bring people to have a conversation about it. In that respect, the filmmakers definitely hit the mark. The reason to release the movie on YouTube right in a middle of a pandemic where most people are confined to their homes, was to reach the maximum amount of people as possible. Well that was achieved. At the time of writing this article, over 6 million people had viewed this documentary. That is worldwide viewership. It reached people, even those that are not hardcore environmentalist as myself.
I do agree with the critics that the information about solar and wind energies as portrayed is a little outdated. I do not know when this was filmed, however they should have refreshed that part of the movie. I know that solar energy is much more reliable today than it used to be. The new solar panels only need day light to get regenerated, not only when there is sunlight. They should of presented this segment as being a work in progress and that there had been some advancements in recent years. This part of the documentary may be misleading to some, but the rest of the film is very revealing.
It is no surprise to me that corporations are involved in this movement. The only reason they are involved is because there is now a possibility to turn a profit by investing in these green energy alternatives. However realistically, we need the collaboration of corporations, the wealthy and the government to fund the conversion from fossil fuels to green energies. I think the will of the people to change is there, however it is naïve to think that the conversion can be done overnight. There will be lots of trials and errors as the film demonstrated with what happened with the solar fields of California, but that does not mean we have to stop believing in this type of energy. I genuinely believe solar energy will be the future of our energy source since there is an unlimited supply of it and it is green. The major issue lies in developing ways of it to be fully green and sustainable.
In my opinion, the most interesting part of the documentary is the last section about Biomass. Firstly, I was not even aware of this way of producing energy on a massive scale. The movie clearly demonstrate that the public is told that only scraps of wood or wood chips are being used for Biomass. However, in reality, companies are deforesting acres and acres of forest so that they can produce these wood chips. This is totally insane. It is destroying one element to save another. I do not know how people can see a solution in this type of activity. I need to praise the documentary for exposing this to the mass public, so at least we are all informed about this practise. The question I have is will this change anything in reality? I have my doubts on the short term.
As I mentioned above, I am a huge Michael Moore fan. In general, I love the way he presents his documentaries. However, this documentary is long, tedious, and very monotonous. Jeff Gibbs narrated the entire film on the same tone. To their defence, how exiting can you make over an hour and a half documentary on green energy. Unless you are passionate about the issue, it is rough to sit through the movie. It took me two sittings to watch the entire film. Normally, a Michael Moore movie is informative, but also entertaining. This movie was informative, interesting, but definitely not entertaining. I guess I ended up watching it because I was confined to our house and ran out of new stuff to watch. Despite this, I would not keep this against the filmmakers. Most documentaries are like this. I am glad I was able to watch it, even though it took me two sittings to get through it.
Is this movie informative? YES. Is the subject matter interesting? YES. Is it entertaining? That is a definite NO. I believe the timing of releasing the movie on YouTube was a great initiative by Moore. It exposed the green energy subject matter to a large audience, that like me, were looking for something new to watch. This documentary has been reviewed by practically every news media outlet there is. In that respect, the filmmakers have reached their goal. Everyone is talking about this documentary on the environment. Despite being terribly slow moving and tedious to look at, I believe it is worth a look even if it takes you a few sittings to get through it. The segment on Biomass is quite revealing and leaves you with some food for thought. This movie is not a waste of your time as some critics have mentioned. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in preserving the environment.
I give this documentary a 7 out of 10. It is slow moving but highly informative. We have posted the movie at the top of our review as long as it is available on YouTube.
If you have watched it we would like to have your thoughts.