Posted by: Mike Grenville | 10 April 2009

The 11th Hour film review

With contributions from over 50 politicians, scientists, and environmental activists, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and ecologist Paul Hawken, ‘The 11th Hour’ film documents the grave problems facing the planet’s life systems. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans’ habitats are all addressed – although Peak Oil only gets a brief mention.

Produced by Leonardo di Caprio and released in August 2007, it is easy to feel bombarded with so many shots/pictures coming and going so fast making it hard to really take them in and feel the true impact of each picture.
For a movie from the Hollywood stable this is probably asking too much but what it didn’t do, and what would have been to have seen more of, particularly in the current political climate of economy-fixing, is to challenge more directly the basic assumption that more consumption = more happiness. All the statistics (see ‘Affluenza’) clearly show an inverse relationship between happiness and consumption, once basic needs have been met. The film did touch on this – references to the ‘tread-mill’ syndrome of working harder and harder to get the money to pay for all the things that seem to be required in order to make people feel better for working such long, stressful hours! A kind of institutional insanity designed to create wealth for corporations. What would an economy look like if we truly geared up – in a post-Pearl Harbour US manner – to converting industry to use and produce cutting edge green technologies.

While the film does propose potential solutions to these problems by calling for restorative action by the reshaping and rethinking of global human activity through technology, social responsibility and conservation, it takes too long to get there. Given that the film is 90 minutes, 70 minutes of it is spent bashing the audience with devastating facts voiced over images of natural disasters and man destroying his environment. As a result by the time it gets around to what could allow us to turn the environmental destruction around, we already feel defeated.

In spite of what can feel like an overdose of male talking heads, there were some thought gems. For example the film shows that we (humans & governments in particular) have an amazing capacity to make dramatic changes to the way we organise, both how we think and what we do – the example of how the US auto industry was converted to the war effort in a matter of months in 1941.

Another important thought in the film is the need for a change in the way humans think. This is something that was referred to several times, with allusions to the changed state of consciousness that so many writers such as Peter Russell and Deepak Chopra have described. It was heartening to hear influential people talking about the need for a change in the way we think rather just in what we do. In this respect, the film goes that much further than ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ which had no ‘happy chapter’.

It was also good to see the positive coverage of solution-focused thinking towards the end – and the view that living in harmony with nature in a sustainable manner doesn’t inevitably mean a harsher, meaner existence.

While the film is a useful addition to the growing catalogue of wake up films, it illustrates how difficult it can be to get the balance right between enough depiction of the challenges and exploration of the solutions.

The 11th Hour Film website

The 11th Hour trailer


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