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(return to the) Planet of the Humans

“We’ve allowed scientists to reduce the natural world to carbon dioxide measurements. And then we’ve allowed those carbon dioxide measurements to speak for the natural world, as if reducing carbon dioxide through renewable energy technologies is going to somehow save the planet, when we’re switching from one form of negative side effects, fossil fuels, to another form of negative side-effects, through mining, also still fossil fuels, and that’s a big problem and it’s one that Planet of the Humans tackles head on.”

— Ozzie Zehner 1

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The following note is Michael Moore’s response to Youtube’s removal of the official upload on his channel:

Planet of the Humans was removed from YouTube 11 days ago, following a coordinated censorship campaign that resulted in a claim against four seconds of footage by a claimant who stated multiple times that he opposed the message of the film. The film had received over 8.3 million views on Michael Moore’s Rumble Media YouTube channel in just over four weeks since its premiere on April 21, the eve of the 50th Earth Day. The leading civil liberties organization for writers and artists, PEN America, defended the film twice and demanded that those behind the censorship campaign should cease their efforts to deny the filmmakers their right to freedom of expression.

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My own review

There is no device, no technology I can think of, more emblematic of our fin de millénaire age than the monstrous multi-wheeled logging machines known in the forestry business euphemistically as ‘harvesters’. Vast acreages of trees can now be felled, stripped bare of foliage and sliced up into neat piles of timber by a single operator and all in just a few short hours. Barely moving a muscle, sat back in a comfortable chair inside his cab, one puny little human is afforded the strength of a giant, casually ripping up trees and tossing them around like matchsticks. When I see footage of these incredible machines, one part of me watches in awe of humankind’s power and cleverness; another part is horrified. Wasn’t the chainsaw already terrifying enough?

In Planet of the Humans filmmaker Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore plant their feet firmly on the side of the trees. They look out across the vast barren forests of wind turbines and deserts replanted with solar panels, these all-new “green technologies” spinning and shining from horizon to horizon, their low energy yields bolstered by another mushrooming industry of tree-consuming biomass incinerators, and ask why. What makes us believe we can sustain human life by consuming our planet in such increasingly elaborate ways? A solution for “sustainability” that ultimately places no limits on which parts of the natural world can be exploited to maintain the same excessive levels of consumption: often replacing old technologies with less efficient new ones for short-term fixes that trade on unseen but astronomical environmental costs.

By the end of the film you are sick of seeing trees ground up into piles of woodchips while billionaires like Al Gore and Richard Branson get plaudits from the foundation-funded faux environmentalist lobby groups, and at the sight of naive twenty-first century hippies deliriously cheering the corporate sponsors, duped into believing just a few solar panels are powering the whole gig. You know it’s all delusionary, a lifestyle choice, a surrogate religion, for the masses anyway; for the plutocrats it’s power and profits as always.

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Review by Wrong Kind of Green

Jeff Gibbs, Writer, Producer, Director:  “At long last our film “Planet of the Humans” is now released to the world! It’s one of the happiest days of my life, and a day I fervently hope has a role in initiating some real change in the world. “Planet of the Humans”  is now available free of charge to everyone on planet Earth courtesy of our partnership with Michael Moore. Please help us spread the word by sharing, blogging, posting, tweeting, emailing, or pony expressing your enthusiasm and urgency about why people must see this movie.”

Planet of the Humans takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost the battle through well-meaning but disastrous choices, including the belief that solar panels and windmills would save us, and by giving in to the corporate interests of Wall Street.

Jeff Gibbs, the writer/producer/director of Planet of the Humans, has dared to say what no one will – that “we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders, many of whom are well-intentioned, but who’ve sold out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.” This film is the wake-up call to the reality which we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the so-called “environmental movement’s” answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids. “It’s too little, too late,” says Gibbs. “Removed from the debate is the only thing that might save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not the issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”

“Have we environmentalists fallen for illusions, ‘green’ illusions, that are anything but green, because we’re scared that this is the end — and we’ve pinned all our hopes on things like solar panels and wind turbines? No amount of batteries are going to save us, and that is the urgent warning of this film.”

This compelling, must-see movie – a full-frontal assault on our sacred cows – is guaranteed to generate anger, debate, and, hopefully, a willingness to see our survival in a new way—before it’s too late.

Click here to read the full review published on April 22nd by Wrong Kind of Green.

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On Saturday 20th, Chris Hedges discussed the criticism and censorship of the film with director, Jeff Gibbs on his RT show ‘On Contact’:

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On the backlash | Yves Engler:

The backlash may be more revealing than the film itself, but both inform us where we are at in the fight against climate change and ecological collapse. The environmental establishment’s frenzied attacks against Planet of the Humans says a lot about its commitment to big money and technological solutions.

A number of prominent individuals tried to ban the film by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore. Others berated the filmmakers for being white, male and overweight. Many thought leaders have declared they won’t watch it.

Despite the hullabaloo, the central points in the film aren’t particularly controversial. Corporate-industrial society is driving human civilization/humanity towards the ecological abyss and environmental groups have largely made peace with capitalism. As such, they tout (profitable) techno fixes that are sometimes more ecologically damaging than fossil fuels (such as biomass or ethanol) or require incredible amounts of resources/space if pursued on a mass scale (such as solar and wind). It also notes the number of human beings on the planet has grown more than sevenfold over the past 200 years.

It should not be controversial to note that the corporate consumption juggernaut is destroying our ability to survive on this planet. From agroindustry razing animal habitat to plastic manufacturers’ waste killing sea life to the auto industrial complex’s greenhouse gases, the examples of corporations wreaking ecological havoc are manifold. Every year since 1969 humanity’s resource consumption has exceeded earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources by an ever-greater volume.

It is a statement of fact that environmental groups have deep ties to the corporate set. Almost all the major environmental groups receive significant cash from the mega-rich or their foundations. Many of them partner directly with large corporations. Additionally, their outreach strategies often rely on corporate media and other business-mediated spheres. It beggars belief that these dependencies don’t shape their policy positions.

A number of the film’s points on ‘renewable’ energy are also entirely uncontroversial. It’s insane to label ripping down forests for energy as “green”. Or turning cropland into fuel for private automobiles. The film’s depiction of the minerals/resource/space required for solar and wind power deserves a far better response than “the data is out of date”.

The green establishment’s hyperventilating over the film suggests an unhealthy fixation/link to specific ‘renewable’ industries. […]

[Bill] McKibben and associates’ ability to frame the film as divisive rests on the stark power imbalance between the ‘green’ capitalist and degrowth outlooks. While there are few profits in the consume-less worldview, McKibben is situated at the progressive end of a network of organizations, commentators and media outlets empowered by hundreds of billions of dollars of ‘green’ capitalism. This milieu has counterposed solar, wind and biomass to the hyper fossil fuel emitting coal, natural gas and oil industries. But, they aren’t keen on discussing the limitations of their preferred energies and the fundamentally unsustainable nature of limitless energy (or other) consumption. And they certainly don’t want any spotlight placed on environmental groups ties to the mega-rich and an unsustainable model.

Fragments of wind turbine blades await burial at the Casper Regional Landfill in Wyoming. Photographer: Benjamin Rasmussen

But, in reality it’s not the criticism that bothers. Wrong Kind of GreenDeath by CarCounterpunch and various other small leftist websites and initiatives have long documented McKibben and associates’ concessions to the dominant order. Often more harshly than in the film. What is unique about Planet of the Humans is that these criticisms have been put forward by leftists with some power (Michael Moore’s name and the funds for a full-length documentary, most obviously.) In other words, the backlash is not a response to the facts or argument, per se, but the ‘mainstreaming’ of the critique.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Planet of the Humans Backlash” written by Yves Engler, published by Wrong Kind of Green, published on May 11th.

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My own caveats:

The central message of the film is one I fully endorse. Unquestionably, the mainstream environmental movement was co-opted by big business and finance capital decades ago; the latter profiting tremendously from the current fixation on global warming that has given rise to speculative markets in carbon trading and so-called “green investment funds”, whilst the dumping and emission of toxic pollution and the plundering of finite natural resources still goes on unabated, frequently in the guise of new ‘green initiatives’ such as biomass production.

Gibbs and Moore reiterate throughout that technological fixes cannot save us, but here I already beg to differ. Switching over to rely on the existing ‘green technologies’ is certainly a road to hell paved with good intentions – the gangrene economy. * It doesn’t follow, however, that our scientists and engineers are incapable of developing truly advanced modes of energy production that can provide clean and abundant energy for everyone. Humans are ingenious and civilisation needs energy.

Similarly, while I fully endorse the expressed view that today’s consumerist, profit-led culture demands a fundamental overhaul, in achieving that goal, care must be taken to avoid widening the wealth gap and sacrificing those already living in poverty. A move in the direction of some kind of zero growth economy means nothing short of a complete re-evaluation of human existence. It means detaching social worth and merit from mere usefulness and productivity. Simultaneously, there must be slow transition to a demonetised society with an increasingly equitable redistribution of wealth. If these stipulations sound too radical then you may not have considered carefully enough the dangerous ramifications of slowing economic growth under the prevailing politico-economic conditions.

On the other side of this equation is Malthusianism, and although the filmmakers try to keep their distance, an unmistakeable whiff of Malthus pervades whenever their emphasis occasionally shifts to the highly controversial topic of planetary overpopulation. I do not wish to go into details here of how global population is already quite stable and will soon top out with ten billion people (fewer in the event of major catastrophe or war), or how prosperity has enabled populations to stabilise and already begin falling in most countries across the developed world, but to highlight how Malthusianism is an ideology promoted and beloved by oligarchs and plutocrats whose interests it serves and protects: calls for the reduction in human numbers seldom stem from notions of self-sacrifice.

Today’s agenda to eliminate ‘the useless eaters’ is actually no different in kind to Malthus notorious and swiftly redacted paragraph from the second edition of his An Essay on the Principle of Population:

A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders, if he does not work upon the compassion of some of her guests. If these guests get up and make room for him, other intruders immediately appear demanding the same favour. The report of a provision for all that come, fills the hall with numerous claimants. The order and harmony of the feast is disturbed, the plenty that before reigned is changed into scarcity; and the happiness of the guests is destroyed by the spectacle of misery and dependence in every part of the hall, and by the clamorous importunity of those, who are justly enraged at not finding the provision which they had been taught to expect. The guests learn too late their error, in counter-acting those strict orders to all intruders, issued by the great mistress of the feast, who, wishing that all guests should have plenty, and knowing she could not provide for unlimited numbers, humanely refused to admit fresh comers when her table was already full. 2

Lastly, although I have quoted at length Michael Moore’s official response to Youtube’s temporary removal of the documentary on the spurious grounds of copyright infringement (see above), the fact of the film’s censorship in no way persuades me of the merit of its contents nor does it convince me that the viewpoint presented is entirely heterodox (it isn’t). There may be other explanations for why Youtube or other mainstream platforms would wish to take such actions including one that is too often overlooked.

A secret brand is any design or manufacturing company that does not advertise or overtly label its products. The products are generally considered luxury goods intended for exclusive clientele.

The paragraph above is from a current Wikipedia entry on the subject “secret brand”. It summarises a well-worn strategy of using reverse psychology to promote products and one that can doubtless be applied just as effectively to promoting anything else, opinions included. In fact, the observed phenomenon of censorship measureably increasing public interest has acquired a name too: it’s called the Streisand effect:

A social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, often via the Internet.

[also from Wikipedia]

Censorship of mere opinion and alternative views is quite wrong in my view, whatever the excuse. However, it is a false leap of logic to presume automatically that if Youtube is censoring something then they don’t want you to hear about it.

By making it illicit they are giving it extra cachet. Perhaps they actually wanted you, as exclusive clientele, to invest time in disseminating it? No publicity is bad publicity.

Notwithstanding each of these concerns and caveats, the real focus of the film, calling into question as it does the sell-out of the environmental movement to big business interests, is both timely and extremely worthwhile. Even the film’s harshest detractors, all of whom are completely enmeshed within the mainstream green movement, have failed in their savage criticisms to diminish the filmmakers’ central charge. In truth, they have no defence. The mainstream environmental movement needs an urgent shake up and this is what Gibbs and Moore’s film delivers in spades.

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WKOG caveat:

Industrial civilization is destroying all life on Earth. Human destruction of biodiversity is not created equally: “Yet tribal peoples are the best conservationists and guardians of the natural world, and 80% of our planet’s biodiversity is found in tribal territories.” [Further reading: The best conservationists made our environment and can save it, Stephen Corry] Human population is often identified as a problem because it strains the world’s resources and pollutes. [1] The first and most efficient way to address over consumption is to reduce consumption in the North is to a) redistribute the resources, (all arable land, etc.) to the Global South, to sustain those in the Global South, and b) phase out the production of all superfluous consumer products that harm life and biodiversity. [Further reading: Too Many Africans?, July 11, 2019] An analysis of population growth that accounts for the vast differences in consumption across class and region is critical in examining the worldwide environmental crisis.

Click here to read the full review published on April 22nd by Wrong Kind of Green.

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1 Ozzie Zehner is author of Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism and co-producer of the 2019 environmental documentary Planet of the Humans

According to Zehner, the statement quoted represents the subtext to the film. [From 16:00 mins]:

2 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4EQTCHiFUBMC&pg=PA249&lpg=PA249&dq=A+man+who+is+born+into+a+world+already+possessed,+if+he+cannot+get+subsistence+from+his+parents+on+whom+he+has+a+just+demand,+and+if+the+society+do+not+want+his+labour,+has+no+claim+of+right+to+the+smallest+portion+of+food&source=bl&ots=aHN-XzbQIm&sig=ACfU3U2aGa0olhhoSGuQ9npxLnk1nCJDOA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjr4MDkyffpAhXUSsAKHRzXCoIQ6AEwAnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=A%20man%20who%20is%20born%20into%20a%20world%20already%20possessed%2C%20if%20he%20cannot%20get%20subsistence%20from%20his%20parents%20on%20whom%20he%20has%20a%20just%20demand%2C%20and%20if%20the%20society%20do%20not%20want%20his%20labour%2C%20has%20no%20claim%20of%20right%20to%20the%20smallest%20portion%20of%20food&f=false

There is also discussion of the same paragraph on the current Wikipedia entry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_on_the_Principle_of_Population#2nd_to_6th_editions

* as political analyst Webster Tarpley puts it succinctly.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, global warming, internet freedom

this is the EU — so take it or leave it… #3. ‘The Brussels Business’

“Who runs the European Union?” This is the question front and centre of the excellent 2012 documentary The Brussels Business which takes the viewer on “a journey into the corridors of power of the biggest economy on earth – the European Union.” What filmmakers Matthieu Lietaert (Belgium) and Friedrich Moser (Italy) find is a Byzantine complex of corporate entanglements and high-powered lobby groups.

Assiduously researched and documented, the real importance of this film is that almost uniquely it presents an exposé of the European Union from a leftist perspective:

Produced by:
Steven Dhoedt (VisualAntics – Be)
Friedrich Moser (green + blue communication – Austria)

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Additional: latest example of EU corporatocracy at work

On Tuesday [May 31st] the European Commission together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft announced a code of conduct “to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe”:

The definition of illegal online content is based on the Framework Decision on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia which criminalises the public incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin. 1

In accordance with the directive, views and opinions that the aforementioned corporations deem “hate speech” will be removed within 24 hours, whereas “alternative” content deemed “a counter narrative” to “hate speech” will be actively promoted. In other words, the tech giants who already own most of the internet will be put in charge of policing it too:

In short, the “code of conduct” downgrades the law to a second-class status, behind the “leading role” of private companies that are being asked to arbitrarily implement their terms of service. This process, established outside an accountable democratic framework, exploits unclear liability rules for companies. It also creates serious risks for freedom of expression as legal but controversial content may well be deleted as a result of this voluntary and unaccountable take down mechanism. 2

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1 http://ec.europa.eu/news/2016/05/20160531_en.htm

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Today, on 31 May, European Digital Rights (EDRi) and Access Now delivered a joint statement on the EU Commission’s “EU Internet Forum”, announcing our decision not to take part in future discussions and confirming that we do not have confidence in the ill considered “code of conduct” that was agreed.

Launched at the end of 2015, the “EU Internet Forum” was meant to counter vaguely defined “terrorist activity and hate speech online”. The discussions were convened by the European Commission and brought together almost exclusively US-based internet companies and representatives of EU Member States. While no civil society organisations were invited to attend the discussions on terrorism, several civil society representatives were allowed to take part in some of the discussions on online hate speech. However, civil society was systematically excluded from the negotiations that led to the voluntary “code of conduct” for IT companies – an official document that was presented today, despite the lack of transparency and public input into its content.

From the joint statement released by European Digital Rights (EDRi) and Access Now on May 31, 2016. https://edri.org/edri-access-now-withdraw-eu-commission-forum-discussions/ 

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, internet freedom, neo-liberalism