Scene4 Magazine — International Magazine of Arts and Media
Scene4 Magazine-inSight

august 2007


by Arthur Kanegis

In this summer's blockbuster hit Transformers, "Decepticons" from an alien species, wreak havoc on Earth – things look bad, humanity seems doomed.  But just in the nick of time, against all odds, our young heroes save the planet. 

From Superman and Wonder Woman to Batman and Spiderman, we love to watch our celluloid heroes save the world.

In Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary, The 11th Hour, the alien species is us.   And the ways in which we "aliens" are wrecking havoc on planet Earth are far more frightening than anything dreamed up by Hollywood:

  • Injecting poisons into the atmosphere causing our children to choke and wheeze in an epidemic of asthma.
  • Dumping toxic chemicals into the oceans killing 90 percent of the big fish. 
  • Poisoning our food supply with pesticides, mercury, herbicides and more.
  • Hacking down whole forests vital to Earth's ability to sustain life.
  • Burning huge fossil fuel reserves, creating so much smoke that it disrupts the fragile atmospheric balance that regulates temperature and makes Earth livable.
  • Contaminating our drinking water, melting our icecaps and killing off species forever.

How would we react if an alien species came down and did this to our planet?

"We face a convergence of crises, all of which are a concern for life," says DiCaprio, narrating his new documentary coming to theaters August 17.  "Every living system is in decline – the forest cover, the soil, the oceans. There isn't one living system that is stable or improving.  And those systems are required for life"

Earth is dying?  People must be gathered around their TV sets, brows furrowed in worry, clutching their children to their breasts as they anxiously await answers, some glimmer of hope for how humanity can fight back.   Let's take a look now.

What? They're watching TV news coverage of Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton? There's not even a single TV channel broadcasting live minute-by-minute feeds about the perilous state of our planet?  

At a press conference at Cannes, DiCaprio told us about the frustrations he faced when he tried to work with a TV network to make an environmental documentary in the late 1990's.  Every truth by a scientist would have to be "balanced" by a lie from an industry spokesman. "We had to make it just two people arguing the same point back and forth and at the end of the day it just became moot."

DiCaprio was determined to make The 11th Hour different.  "This was really a homemade movie," DiCaprio said.  dicaprioonset5-cr-cHe made it with private funding so that "no studio and no network could impose their agenda on it."

In order to make sure the film is taken seriously, DiCaprio and his team built the film with an impressive array of over 50 leading scientists, Nobel prize winners, professors, and great thinkers ranging from Scripps Institute oceanographer Jereme Jackson and Stanford University Environmental Director Steven Schneider to former CIA director James Woolsey and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who founded Green Cross International.

The real-life images are terrifying as we see nature fight back against the relentless assault of the humans: homes ripped from their foundations, cars tossed in the air like toothpicks, embattled rescue workers swept away by churning waters, fires raging across the land.

"The evidence is now clear, industrial civilization has cause irreparable damage. Our political and corporate leaders have consistently ignored the overwhelming scientific evidence," DiCaprio warns as his experts ring the alarm bells: "Not only is it the 11th hour, it's 11:59... What we saw with Katrina is just a prolog.  The worst is yet to come... The UN estimates that by the middle of the century there may be 150 million environmental refugees... There are too many of us using too many resources too fast... The rate of decline is accelerating...  The tragedy is the potential extinction of humankind."

World-renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking, whose medical condition requires him to speak with an eerily authoritative computer voice, sent chills down my back as he explained:

 "The danger is that the temperature increase might become self-sustaining, if it has not done so already… hawking1the warming of the seas may trigger the release of large quantities of CO2 trapped on the ocean floor.  In addition, the melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets will reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into space and so increase the temperature further. We don't know where the global warming will stop, but the worst case scenario is that earth would become like its sister planet, Venus, with a temperature of 250 centigrade, and raining sulfuric acid. The human race could not survive in those conditions."

Now hold on just a minute.  We humans may be willing to take a lot of abuse, but are we going to let "aliens" mess up our planet? Destroy the human race?  Fry poor Fido and our prized rose bushes?

We're not the kind of people to take something like that lying down.  No way! Our heroes will come to the rescue.

 "All of these forces sweeping over the planet are the forces created by human beings," comments National Geographic Society explorer Wade Davis.  "And if human beings are the source of the problem we can be the foundation for the solution."

"We?" So you mean DiCaprio's not going to be our celluloid hero who saves the world?  We have to do the job ourselves?  Be our own heroes?  Isn't that asking a little much?

"During this critical period of human history, healing the damage of industrial civilization is the task of our generation," DiCaprio says, as the film demonstrates that we already have the technological know-how to reduce the human footprint on planet Earth by 90 percent.  "Our response depends on the conscious evolution of our species and this response could very well save this unique blue planet for future generations."

Leila Conners Petersen and her sister Nadia Conners directed the documentary.  We visited their Tree Media Group in Santa Monica – a small office buzzing with activity as everyone prepares for the film's final release.  We managed to first pull aside producer Brian Gerber,Gerber-cr who was exuding excitement with the possibilities for winning the fight to save the humans:

"It has been just a great, tremendous experience. We have been working on the movie for 3 years and now it's very exciting to finally get it out there.  We could not be happier with Warner Brothers picking it up and putting it out.  It's, you know, it is a dream come true for us."

"In the film, we present a whole wide range of impacts that man is having on our home planet and we also spend a lot of time offering visionary solutions to all the different environmental problems that we face."

Brian is a man with a plan: "Our big push is the 11th Hour Action Campaign; so audiences will be able to take off and do the actions needed to make a shift in their own lives, and then from there a broader societal shift can really happen."

We were finally able to pull the directors away from the editing room where they were putting final touches on the images of our planet being battered by multiple assaults on its very life systems.

 "We're kind of in a pitched battle to save what we have and not to continue destruction," Nadia told us. 

 "Are you discouraged," we asked?

"When we first started making this movie, I was worried about the bad news, and felt that we were going down as a civilization and as a planet.  But After interviewing all these people, I couldn't be more hopeful. I feel that we are really going to turn this around and that not only is the planet going to be better off, but human beings are going to be better off."leila-nadia

"I don't believe that people maliciously wake up in the morning saying I'm going to hurt the earth today," her sister Leila added.  "All of this is simply a byproduct of the way we constructed society. So we just have to redesign our society at every level so that it doesn't destroy the planet."

Nadia didn't seem to find this to be a daunting task at all:

"One of my favorite lines in our film is when Paul Hawken says, 'What an exciting time to be born, what an exciting time to be alive, because this generation gets to completely remake this world.'

The 11th Hour is a stunning film.  It is packed with facts we human beings need to know to save our planet.  You owe it to yourself and to your future to go see it. It is the ultimate horror movie, action flick and feel-good movie all wrapped up into one.

If an alien species attacked our planet's vital life systems, we'd be up in arms.  So why do we let our own "Decepticons" get away with telling us that global warming isn't real? That we can't control our corporations because they are "persons" with rights, but nature is property and we can do with it anything we damn please?  That the magic of the free market will solve the world's problems?  That we must give up our freedoms to fight for "freedom" (i.e., oil?)?  That it's our patriotic duty to shop and shut up? 

Here on Earth, you and I are "aliens" when we go to any of 191 other nations on Earth.  And they are "aliens" when they come here.  We human beings have made ourselves all aliens on our home planet. How are we ever going to save the Earth if we are all aliens?  Maybe it's time we threw off the grip of our own Decepticons and recognized and acted on the reality that we are all citizens of one planet Earth – and we're going to sink or swim in this together.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us!"




Read in-depth interviews with The 11th Hour directors,
Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners—Click Here

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About This Article


©2007 Arthur Kanegis
©2007 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Arthur Kanegis is a screenwriter, producer and president of One Films, LLC.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine-International Magazine of Arts and Media

august 2007

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