August 27, 2007
The 11th Hour

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Intercessory Prayer for the Survival of the Human Race

John R. Guthrie

The major theme of this eco-documentary movie could well be phrased, “Consume Less, Live More.” The film provides dramatic vivid imagery as well as commentary from a cast of experts of world class credentials. This includes scientists, designers, historians, advocates, psychologists, and other intellectuals. Former Soviet Prime Minister and Founding President of Green Cross International Mikhail Gorbachev makes a surprising appearance.  Cosmologist Stephen Hawking, his speech synthesizer giving him an American accent, speaks up. Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize winner (2004) for her “Green Belt” environmental work in Kenya states, “In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, ‘Let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is people don’t make those linkages.”

Stephen H. Schneider, Professor and Senior Fellow at Environmental Science and Policy of the Institute for International Studies describes the earth’s, "…natural greenhouse effect. Temperatures are about 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer due to water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane — what we call greenhouse gases or trapping gases. I feel that humans are basically competing with nature when we use tailpipes to exhaust waste into the atmosphere, whereas nature disposes its own waste in a manner that balances the order of the environment naturally. There are several clean forms of energy to power vehicles and machines. As we pollute, we are contributing to the shift in the planet's temperature, which is a red flag in relation to human existence. At this time 20% of the sea ice has melted in the Arctic regions due to technology's waste….”

The big rupture came in the 1800s, with “the steam engine, the fossil fuel age, the industrial revolution,” says Nathan Gardels, author, editor and Media Fellow of the World Economic Forum. “This was a great rupture from earlier forms and rhythms of life, which were generally regenerative. What happened after the industrial revolution was that nature was converted to a resource and that resource was seen as, essentially, eternally abundant. This led to the idea, and the conception behind progress which is: limitless growth, limitless expansion.”

“Finding coal here, and little bit of oil there, and between that and the agricultural revolution, slowly our population crept up until we hit our fist one billion people,” says Thom Hartmann, a best-selling author and progressive radio talk show host. “It didn’t take us a hundred thousand years to go from one billion to two billion. Our second billion only took us a hundred and thirty years. We hit two billion people in 1930. Our third billion took only 30 years, 1960. It’s amazing when you think about it. When John Kennedy was inaugurated, there were half as many people on the planet as there are today.”

“Seventy countries in the world no longer have any intact or original forests,” comments Tzeporah Berman, Program Director for Forest Ethics, “And here in the United States, ninety five percent of our old growth forests are already gone.” Their unanimous conclusion is that human beings can't view themselves as a superior species – the view that man was meant to have dominion over the earth and all other life forms.

Scripps Institute oceanographer Jeremy Jackson, and author and science reporter Andy Revkin (The New York Times) note that the earth will survive, but that human beings must recognize the dangers of current environmental abuse if the species is to survive.

Producer/Narrator Leonardo DiCaprio is also the founder of the ecologically oriented Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998.

DiCaprio came to cinematic fame in the 1997 megahit Titanic. In The 11th Hour, he provides a clear warning that spaceship earth could become another Titanic. But he also provides hope, noting that the human footprint can be reduced 90% through the use of currently available technology.

The 11th Hour opened in Los Angeles and New York on August 17th where I viewed in Westwood’s Landmark Theater. It opened in other major markets on the 24th and opens nationwide on August 31st.

The 11th Hour
Directed by: Leila Conners Petersen & Nadia Conners
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

Dr. John R. Guthrie practiced family medicine in the Smokey Mountain foothills of Appalachia for years. As an adolescent he was a U.S. Marine infantry rifleman and later served as a physician in the U.S. Navy Reserve. He lives in Southern California and is a writer and social activist.


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