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Michael Moore's 'Planet of the Humans' documentary peddles dangerous climate denial

Posted on 1 May 2020 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have long been allies in the fight to keep unchecked industrial growth from irreversibly ruining Earth’s climate and threatening the future of human civilization. In their new YouTube documentary “Planet of the Humans,” director Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore argue for splitting the two sides. Their misleading, outdated, and scientifically sophomoric dismissal of renewable energy is perhaps the most dangerous form of climate denial, eroding support for renewable energy as a critical climate solution.

“Planet of the Humans” by the end of April had more than 4.7 million views and fairly high scores at the movie critic review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The documentary has received glowing reviews from numerous climate “deniers” whose names are familiar to those in the climate community, including Steve Milloy, Marc Morano, and James Delingpole. Some environmentalists who have seen the movie are beginning to oppose wind and solar projects that are absolutely necessary to slow climate change.

The film by these two “progressive” filmmakers may succeed where Fox News and right-wing talk radio have failed: to undermine humanity’s last best hope for positive change. As energy journalist Ketan Joshi wrote, the film is “selling far-right, climate-denier myths from nearly a decade ago to left-wing environmentalists in the 2020s.”

The film follows Gibbs as he visits various green technology sites in the United States and ostensibly learns that each one is just as bad as the fossil fuel infrastructure that it would replace. Unfortunately, the movie is littered with misleading, skewed, and outdated scenes.

“Planet of the Humans”‘ approach is fundamentally flawed – Gibbs focuses almost exclusively on the imperfections of technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, biomass, and electric cars without considering their ability to reduce carbon and other pollutants. The film suggests that because no source of energy is perfect, all are bad, thus implying that the very existence of human civilization is the problem while offering little in the way of alternative solutions.

A badly outdated portrait of solar and wind

In an interview with Reuters, Michael Moore summarized the premise of the film: “I assumed solar panels would last forever. I didn’t know what went into the making of them.”

It’s true. Solar panels and wind turbines don’t last forever (though they do last several decades), and like every other industrial product, they require mining and manufacturing of raw materials. Sadly, that’s about as deep as the film delves into quantifying the environmental impacts of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. In fact, the misinformation in the film is at times much worse than ignorance.

In one scene, author and film co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, “You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you’re getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.”

That’s monumentally wrong. A 2017 study in Nature Energy found that when accounting for manufacturing and construction, the lifetime carbon footprints of solar, wind, and nuclear power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas, even when the latter include expensive carbon capture and storage technology. The energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively. There are many life-cycle assessment studies arriving at similar conclusions.

The film’s case is akin to arguing that because fruit contains sugar, eating strawberries is no healthier than eating a cheesecake.

It’s true that the carbon footprint of renewable energy is not zero. But the film somehow fails to mention that it’s far lower than the fossil fuel alternatives, instead falsely suggesting (with zero supporting evidence) that renewables are just as bad. The closest defense of that argument comes when Zehner claims that wind and solar energy cannot displace coal, and instead retired coal power plants are being replaced by even larger natural gas plants.

In reality, coal power generation in the U.S. has declined by about half (over 1 trillion kilowatt-hours) over the past decade, and it’s true that natural gas has picked up about two-thirds of that slack (670 kWh). But growth in renewables has accounted for the other one-third (370 kWh). As a result, power sector carbon emissions in the U.S. have fallen by one-third since 2008 and continue to decline steadily. In fact, electricity is the only major sector in the U.S. that’s achieving significant emissions reductions.

It’s true that natural gas is a fossil fuel. To reach zero emissions, it must be replaced by renewables with storage and smart grids. But thus far the path to grid decarbonization in the U.S. has been a success story that the film somehow portrays as a failure. Moreover, that decarbonization could be accelerated through policies like pricing carbon pollution, but the film does not once put a single second of thought into policy solutions.

In perhaps its most absurd scene, Gibbs and Zehner visit a former solar facility in Daggett, California, built in the mid-1980s and replaced 30 years later. Gazing upon the sand-covered landscape of the former facility, Gibbs declares in an ominous tone, “It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at: a solar dead zone.”

Daggett is located in the Mojave Desert. Sand is the natural landscape. Solar farms don’t create dead zones; in fact, some plants thrive under the shade provided by solar panels.

It suddenly dawned on me how hard the film was trying to portray clean energy in a negative light.

A shallow dismissal of electric vehicles

In another scene, Gibbs travels to a General Motors facility in Lansing, Michigan, circa 2010, as GM showcased its then-new Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle. Gibbs interviews a representative from the local municipal electric utility provider, who notes that they generate 95% of their supply by burning coal, and that the power to charge the GM facility’s EVs will not come from renewables in the near future.

That is the full extent of the discussion of EVs in the film. Viewers are left to assume that because these cars are charged by burning coal, they’re just greenwashing. In reality, because of the high efficiency of electric motors, an electric car charged entirely by burning coal still produces less carbon pollution than an internal combustion engine car (though more than a hybrid). The U.S. Department of Energy has a useful tool for comparing carbon emissions between EVs, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, and gasoline-powered cars for each state. In Michigan, on average, EVs are the cleanest option of all, as is the case for the national average power grid. In West Virginia, with over 90% electricity generated from coal, hybrids are the cleanest option, but EVs are still cleaner than gasoline cars.

In short, EVs are an improvement over gasoline-powered cars everywhere, and their carbon footprints will continue to shrink as renewables expand to supply more of the power grid.

A valid critique of wood biomass

The film devotes a half hour to the practice of burning trees for energy. That’s one form of biomass, which also includes burning wood waste, garbage, and biofuels. Last year, 1% of U.S. electricity was generated by burning wood, but it accounted for 30% of the film run time.

In fairness, Europe is a different story, where wood biomass accounts for around 5% of electricity generation, and which imports a lot of wood chips from America. It’s incentivized because the European Union considers burning wood to be carbon neutral, and it can thus be used to meet climate targets. That’s because new trees can be planted to replace those removed, and the EU assumes the wood being burned would have decayed and released its stored carbon anyway.

There are numerous problems with those assumptions, one of which is unavoidable: time. Burning trees is close to carbon neutral once a replacement tree grows to sufficient maturity to recapture the lost carbon, but that takes many decades. In the meantime, the carbon released into the atmosphere accelerates the climate crisis at a time when slashing emissions is increasingly urgent. That’s why climate scientists are increasingly calling on policymakers to stop expanding this practice. So has 350.org founder Bill McKibben since 2016, despite his depiction in the film as a villainous proponent of clearcutting forests to burn for energy.

It’s complicated, but the carbon footprint of biomass depends on where the wood comes from. Burning waste (including waste wood) as biomass that would decay anyway is justifiable, but also generally only practical at a relatively small scale. A more detailed investigation of the wood biomass industry could make for a worthwhile documentary. It’s still a small-time player, but it does need to stay that way.

The bottom line

Gibbs asks, “Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?”

Why not? Industrial civilization has a non-zero climate and environmental footprint, but the impact of green technologies like EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels is much smaller than the alternatives. They represent humanity’s best chance to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The filmmakers call for an end to limitless economic growth and consumption. It’s difficult to envision that goal being achieved anytime soon, but even if it is, human civilization will continue to exist and require energy. To avert a climate crisis, that energy must be supplied by the clean renewable technologies pilloried in the film. To expand on the earlier analogy, the filmmakers seem to believe we should improve nutrition not by eating healthier foods like strawberries, but rather by eating a bit less cheesecake.

Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It’s a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity’s last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 36:

  1. How disappointing that Moore could be so careless. Nuff said by me.  

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  2. "The film suggests that because no source of energy is perfect, all are bad, thus implying that the very existence of human civilization is the problem while offering little in the way of alternative solutions."

    Exactly. I suspect this is all because the films producers clearly hate industrial society, and capitalism and allegedly horrible billionaires that 'profit' from renewables. But it makes no sense to start criticising renewables, because capitalists will keep on building more fossil fuels and profiting from that. Moore and Gibs have shot themselves in their own feet in spectacular fashion.

    Sure we need to improve capitalism, or find an alternative, but that is no easy task and will take time, so can't be a precondition to solving the climate problem.

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  3. Both Michael Moore and the environmentalists seem to believe that one should use pictures and cherries to convince as many people as possible. Michael Moore is quite good at that. So he forces environmentalists to defend their position and to use arguments. That is fair isn't it. So where are the real convincing arguments?

    Let me give an example: In 2018 natural gas accounted for more kWh of electricity in the US than did coal, but it released less than half the amount of CO2. See https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=74&t=11 By replacing all coal fired power plants by power plants using natural gas the amount of CO2 released for generating electricity is reduced by more than 50%. Isn't that great?

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  4. Gwsb @3 :-

    <" ... by power plants using natural gas the amount of CO2 released for generating electricity is reduced by more than 50%. Isn't that great? ">

    Okay . . . and then what?

    Gwsb, I'm not sure how much irony you're using.

    Let's have a look at an analogy :-

    ~ Instead of a daily beating, you now only beat your wife three days a week. Isn't that great?

    Irony, or ironical sarcasm?

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  5. "the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men."

    I agree with almost all of the article's points, but why the need for this ad hominem? Many advocates of green energy are "comfortable white men" too. Does that mean they're not trustworthy either? Of course not! All this comment does is cast doubt on the rest of the article, making me want to re-read it in case the writer threw in some other fallacy that I might have missed.

    Just avoid sophistry, stick to the facts, and we're all better-off.

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  6. This film is far from climate denial. It clearly says we are changing our climate. I agree the mistakes, old info and missinformation are unforgivable but the general idea that too many humans consume too much is truth. Typical Moore sensationalism. Pretty badly made film too imo

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  7. So Michael has fallen victim to that most powerful of human attributes - greed. Whether for money and/or glory, the result is the same. Another dent in the defenses of already fragile eco-systems. I mistakenly thought of him as "one of the good guys."

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  8. While the author offers many valid criticisms of the movie, I believe Planet of The Humans addresses a far wider concern than simply a necessary reduction in fossil fuel emissions.

    We can blame the filmmakers for begin overly ambitious or impractical in their underlying message. Yet, it's undeniable that more fundamental solutions are needed to save our planet's once-diverse ecosystems, from continued degradation from all forms of development - green technology included.

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  9. @8,

    You are right, without changing agriculture it is impossible, but the flaws in the movie suround energy tech mostly

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  10. More than monumentally wrong.  Most of the manufacturing processes to produce wind turbines and solar panels use electricity as their energy source and the greater the proportion of renewable energy in the mix the lower the amount of fossil fuel that is used in their production.  In other words, we are using fossil fuel to wean ourselves off fossil fuel.  As it should be. Incidentally, work is being done on using Hydrogen to reduce iron ore rather than coking coal.  If this works out, another tranch of fossil fuel use disappears from the production of wind turbines. 

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  11. I find it tragic that "Proponents of one of the many sub-sets of required corrections of developed human activity" fail to acknowledge the diverse collected understanding in the Sustainable Development Goals, all of which needs to be achieved and can be improved upon. An economy driven to be comprised of the most sustainable and least harmful activities has the best chance of "Getting Better Sustainably". All other economic developed activity is destined to end, some of it very tragically ending after doing much harm before it is ended.

    But I agree that a fundamental problem is the more fortunate people who do not wish to lose perceptions of status that they would lose if the required corrections were successfully rapidly pursued. They are the portion of the population the future of humanity would be better without.

    The SDGs were published in 2015. And every advocate of one of the many required changes should embrace and support the entire understanding of the SDGs, or expand and correct the SDGs with detailed independently verifiable justification.

    This movie indeed appears to have been started in the past without any effort put into checking if it was Out of Date in any way. The lack of interest in pursuing expanded awareness and improved understanding to help develop sustainable improvements for humanity is tragically popular.

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  12. Joe Wiseman @7

    "So Michael has fallen victim to that most powerful of human attributes - greed."

    How do you conclude that? The impression I get is he has  let his anti capitalist tendences get out of control. He has talked about billionaire capitalists profiting from renewables in disparaging terms. His solutions are to have fewer children and consume a lot less less energy. I would be interested to see if he lives by these principles. People who preach need to practice their principles if they want credibility.

    "I mistakenly thought of him (Michael Moore) as "one of the good guys."

    I understand what you mean. I saw his Bowling for Columbine about mass shootings and gun control (or lack of) in the USA, and it was entertaining and moving, and made a powerful point about the problems, but it was full of huge distortions. It could not really be called a documentary. M Moore gets his facts wrong and exaggerates and so he plays into the hands of his critics I think. Looks like hes done the same with this latest documentary on energy systems.

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  13. Renewables do not resolve the problem.  Nuclear does not resolve the problem. No single answer resolves the problem and the use of "Capitalism" guarantees that the problem will not be resolved.   I managed to watch a fair bit of it.   It is flawed, but not the horrendous thing that some people here seem to think. 

    I know that Ivanpah had teething problems and that they were ultimately resolved.  The film is misleading about that, clearly showing someplace else to declare it a disaster.  I almost stopped with that because I've followed Ivanpah's struggle - but the fragility of a renewables-only infrastructure is not imaginary and not merely something that was true in the past.  The difficulty of getting electric vehicles to replace cars and trucks but retaining the way we use cars and trucks, is well understood.  The environmental cost of the elements and chemical processes that go into the batteries and the cells, and the 25 year lifetimes of the cells, are all too real. 


    BP analysis of world energy consumption

     

     

    The three smallest wedges here have to replace half of the 3 largest wedges - in 10 years.  That isn't going to happen.  THAT is what I see as one of the messages that is quite real in this film. 

    The problem of intermittency is not resolved by any amount of hand-waving.  It requires hard engineering to store energy effectively and it is going to require immense changes to our 24/7 culture as well as abandoning entirely the notion that "growth" is the sacrament that mainstream economics and consumer capitalism make it.

    "The film suggests that because no source of energy is perfect, all are bad"

    I didn't see that.  I saw some fairly pointed minor criticisms of specific tech.  I didn't see "nothing works".  A lot of popular answers won't. 

    Some see the film's central point as "we cannot use technology to get us out of a jam that technology created in the first place". This is an attractive sound bite and it isn't true.  It is one of several flaws in the film.  

    We can't keep our current economic and social systems and we are going to have to live differently, if we want to retain human civilization.  That is what I think the film really intended to point out and it is actually a very pointy point.

    We need all of every possible source of non-CO2 emitting energy we can obtain.  We need the Germans to reverse their anti-nuclear stance and the New Zealanders to make it clear that nuclear power is acceptable for shipping to New Zealand.   We need massive electrification of rail - which doesn't require any batteries to work - to replace as much of our long haul trucking as we can.   We need answers from real engineers rather from enthusiasts and cheerleaders - and we need to accept that we are going to have to change a hell of a lot about the way we live over the next few decades. 

    The Coronavirus has taught us is that we need to work together to solve the big problems.  Maybe we will. 

     

     

     

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  14. 1st law of thermodynamics "You can't win".  2nd law "You can't even break even"

    Ubrew's correlaries: 1st law "Every bit of energy you use comes from your environment"  2nd law: "Yeah, it hurts your environment"

    Jeff Gibbs movie belabors something we all knew: we lean on our environment for everything we produce.  Unhappily for Gibbs, there isn't a smidgen of non-fossil energy that claims otherwise.

    I'm deeply moved by what fossil fuel burning is going to do to the coral reefs, the rainforests, and the polar bears.  But I'm a climate activist for what it's about to do to us mere humans.  For starters, its going to destroy many of our most cherished historical cities.  Against this, should we really dismiss 'Plan B' because it has 'sinned' against our environment?  Since I used a toilet today, go ahead and dismiss me as well, by that standard.

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  15. The trouble is all about the term sustainability and how we define it. The only thing that is truly 100% sustainable for eternity is something like hunter gatherer culture or very simple farming,  which treads lightly on the environment and uses only things that regenerate forever like trees, and  not metals or fossil fuels (all of which could run out in theory). This is sustainability reduced down to something we cannot get below, unless we obliterate the human race.

    But it just doesnt make a whole lot of sense to abandon our civilisation to live like primitives and to stop using the wide range of resources that we have. And 7.6 billion humans burning wood to survive would wipe out our forests.

    So as humans the best we can probably do is try to be more sustainable than we are, use materials sensibly, not waste things,  and solve the most pressing problems.  We can obviously do more to conserve the environment. The UN development goals are a good practical guide.

    So in choosing energy resources its about the lesser of the evils, and renewable energy and perhaps nuclear power fit that definition. Gibs, the brains behind the documentary, hasn't thought things through.

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  16. Not to be pedantic Ubrew but the 1st law is: "You have to play." 2nd: "You can't win." 3rd "You can't break even."

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  17. Climate change IS the default solution, since humans insist on individual 'freedom' above all else, and no-one wants to give up on the status quo (including everyone here, apparently), there's no need to do anything, because - if climate change predictions come to fruition, the human population will collapse, and everything will be fine.

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  18. For those interested in a more balanced critique of the film, I recommend a review by Richard Heinberg in Resilience. Heinberg, who was featured as an expert witness in the film.

    On the pro side, Richard taps into research he did with David Fridley of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess the prospects for a complete transition to solar and wind power. Criticism of renewables was a prominent feature of the film. Here's what Richard wrote in his review:

    "We [Heinberg and Fridley] found that the transition to renewables is going far too slowly to make much of a difference during the crucial next couple of decades, and would be gobsmackingly expensive if we were to try replacing all fossil fuel use with solar and wind. We also found, as the film underscores again and again, that the intermittency of sunshine and wind is a real problem—one that can only be solved with energy storage (batteries, pumped hydro, or compressed air, all of which are costly in money and energy terms); or with source redundancy (building way more generation capacity than you’re likely to need at any one time, and connecting far-flung generators on a super-grid); or demand management (which entails adapting our behavior to using energy only when it’s available). All three strategies involve trade-offs. In the energy world, there is no free lunch. Further, the ways we use energy today are mostly adapted to the unique characteristics of fossil fuels, so a full transition to renewables will require the replacement of an extraordinary amount of infrastructure in our food system, manufacturing, building heating, the construction industry, and on and on. Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or maybe even a tenth of current energy.
    Is it true that mainstream enviros have oversold renewables? Yes. They have portrayed the transition away from fossil fuels as mostly a political problem; the implication in many of their communications is that, if we somehow come up with the money and the political will, we can replace oil with solar and continue living much as we do today, though with a clear climate conscience. That’s an illusion that deserves shattering. "

    On the con side, Heinberg writes --
    "The film is low on nuance, but our global climate and energy dilemma is all shades of gray. Gibbs seems to say that renewables are a complete waste of time. I would say, they are best seen as a marginal transitional strategy for industrial societies. Given climate change and the fact that fossil fuels are depleting, finite resources, it appears that if we want to maintain any sort of electrical energy infrastructure in the future, it will have to be powered by renewables—hydro, wind, or solar. As many studies have confirmed, the nuclear power industry has little realistic prospect of revival. The future will be renewable; there simply isn’t any other option.

    What is very much in question, however, is the kind of society renewable energy can support."

    Heinberg also felt the harsh criticism of McKibben was undeserved.

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  19. frawhi24 @18,

    Thank you for pointing to Heinberg's defense of the film (not really a review, since he participated in its creation).

    What stands out to me is the correctness of the need to dramatically reduce the amount of energy used per-person to live a Good Life. What also stands out is the way that the movie and Heinberg fail to investigate the ability of renewables to provide all of that reduced energy demand.

    It appears that the defense of the lack of serious consideration of the renewable solution is "The Cost". That is an unjustified basis for Leadership actions when there is an "understood level of risk of harm".

    The global community has established the "understood level of risk of harm, open to correction and improvement if good justification is provided". It is ideally less than 1.5 C global warming impact, with an identified maximum impact level of 2.0 C.

    As a Structural Engineer I am well aware that when there is an identified limit on negative impacts, failure of a structure to perform acceptably, there is no allowed compromise of that safety performance limit just because of "Cost". Cost savings are not allowed to compromise the meeting of the identified requirements.

    So the delays of corrective action by the richest is clearly an unacceptable behaviour. And claiming Cost as the reason to not meet and beat the identified minimum safe performance limit of harm becomes understood to be absurd.

    What needs to become the Common Sense Understanding is the unacceptability of any of the richer people failing to expand their awareness and improve their understanding to help achieve and improve on all of the Sustainable Development Goals, and failing to help others better understand and be less harmful, more helpful. And meeting the identified limit of climate change impact is crucial because more climate change impact makes it harder to achieve the other SDGs.

    The entire group of the richest need to be required to correct their behaviour and set the example of the ways of living that everyone else should aspire to develop to. The belief that "only those who care need to be helpfully acting better" needs to end. Maintaining higher status should be dependent on proving that the higher status person is more helpful and not harmful to any others.

    That leads to the required Common Sense that all competitors for status need to be Governed by expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to help achieve sustainable improvements for the future of all of humanity on this only planet known to be habitable by humanity, and potentially habitable for the next 1 billion years ... Maybe Only One Planet - Potentially Habitable Almost Forever.

    I strongly recommend that everyone become very familiar with Two Things (equally important to better understand both - and it does not matter which is better understood first, because constantly pursuing expanded awareness and improved understanding is what is required):

    Then a person can more successfully critically watch the movie and read any article or "Review".

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  20. Frawhi24@18,

    When I Googled Heinberg and Fridley I ended up here at a white paper by Heinberg.  I note that this paper is not peer reviewed.  I noticed that 29 out of 30 references appeared to be to popular press articles and only one was to a peer reviewed publication.  The one peer reviewed publication was mis-interpreted in the document.  The other 3 links I tried were not functional.

    Heinburg seems to me to have a preconcieved notion of what is correct.  Perhaps if he read more of the peer reviewed literature and less popular press, he would have a different attitude.

    I have written a summary of the peer reviewed paper Smart Energy Europe which deals with most of the issues Heinburg raises.  I will submit that summary next week to SkS.  While it will be easier to generate All Energy using renewable energy if consumption of energy is reduced, current peer reviewed research indicates that it will be possible to supply estimated future energy needs using renewable energy at a reasonable cost.

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  21. frawhi24 @18

    "We also found, as the film underscores again and again, that the intermittency of sunshine and wind is a real problem—one that can only be solved with energy storage (batteries, pumped hydro, or compressed air, all of which are costly in money and energy terms); or with source redundancy (building way more generation capacity than you’re likely to need at any one time,"

    A stand alone wind / solar grid reliant purely on storage is currently expensive, but those storage costs have been on a falling trajectory and will fall further and we know whats plausible and what the limiting factors are so can be realistic. Also look at the costs of wind and solar power compared to the alternatives (eg in the Lazard Analysis) and you could do a considerable 'over build' and still be economic.

    The other alternative is just to accept some gas fired backup power and this means you need much less storage. We know the maths of this and its economic. The Texas electricity market already approximates this model. And this is still a lot better than burning fossil fuels. You could aslo sequester the CO2 emissions underground, but I dont know the economics of that.

    I wouldn't count out nuclear power either. It may have a role to play.

    Essentially Heinberg and Fridley have not properly considered all the options, and are exaggerating the problem.

    "Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or maybe even a tenth of current energy."

    No doubt we can get energy use to be more efficient but expecting to get it 1000% more efficient is magical thinking, and expecting people to go cold in winter is crazy thinking. You have to base decisions on realistic estimates and predictions of whats achievable.

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  22. barryn56 

    "Climate change IS the default solution, since humans insist on individual 'freedom' above all else, and no-one wants to give up on the status quo (including everyone here, apparently), there's no need to do anything, because - if climate change predictions come to fruition, the human population will collapse, and everything will be fine.'

    Oh come on this is pure bulls**t. Many posts above suggest we be more sustainable, look at various alternative economic options, change the energy grid. Maybe they dont go as far as you want, but you dont spell out your own solutions, which I suspect would be in fantasy land.

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  23. “You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you’re getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend.”

    That sounds like the argument that cycling is no better for the environment than driving, because cycling requires calories from food, and steak processed from cattle reared by clearing the Brazilian rainforest has a very high carbon footprint. As arguments go, it really is a poor effort.

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  24. nigelj22:

    He is right about one thing, that people do prioritise their individual desires, comfort and freedom over collective responsibility. People don't mind picking the easy low hanging fruit like changing to energy efficient light bulbs or recycling, but try asking them to give up their three abroad holidays per year, or downsize their huge SUV or house, or turn the thermostat down in winter and put another layer on, go vegetarian or vegan, i.e. anything that makes life a little bit less comfortable. That is at least partly why progress has been three fifths of bugger all over the last 50 years. If you want solutions, I don't have them, because they would very likely include policies/actions that you would claim to be unrealistic. The only suggestion I have is that we need to adapt to a new climate normal (increase robustness to the changes and extremes which are projected to happen over the next century), because even if we stopped anthropogenic emissions now, the CO2 in the atmosphere isn't going anywhere for centuries, but it is still going to be elevating the global temperature.

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  25. Watch a recent review of the movie at Just Have A Think

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmNjLHRAP2U

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Hyperlinked URL

  26. alea @24,

    "People don't mind picking the easy low hanging fruit like changing to energy efficient light bulbs or recycling, but try asking them to give up their three abroad holidays per year, or downsize their huge SUV or house, or turn the thermostat down in winter and put another layer on, go vegetarian or vegan, i.e. anything that makes life a little bit less comfortable."

    Yes true about the low hanging fruit. It may surprise you, but  I do think all the other solutions you list are realistic and people may yet adopt them better.But M Moores solutions require we go much further than that. Remember his solution to climate change is lower population growth and less use of energy. Full stop.

    That means much less use of energy. You would not just be turning down the themostat a bit and flying less, you would be turning the heater off most of the time and not flying at all and forget about owning a car. I take Moores solutions at face value, to show you how stupid they are. I cant second guess what he might really mean.

    We need a new energy grid. 

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  27. nigelj,

    I find arguments that a person should not be expected to live a "hair shirt lifestyle" to be poorly substantiated statements that can be tragically popular because people can make-up whatever they want as their understanding based on that type of 'brief marketing-style' claim. That is one of the powerful ways that misleading marketing works.

    What is required is the Common Sense (what everybody recognizes as a valid understanding, like the Earth is a Ball) being the expectation that all of the most fortunate are to develop to be better examples of how everyone else should be aspiring to develop to live. And the Common Sense would include the expectation that all of the more fortunate would help expand awareness and improve understanding and apply it to help develop sustainable improvements, reduce harm done, for the benefit of humanity, local and distant, now and into the far future.

    Anyone perceived to be higher status who is not honoring that needs to be understood to be setting a harmful misleading example and deserving to lose status.

    Examples of what dramatic reduction of energy use can actually mean:

    • Buy more durable goods, including clothing. Learn as much as possible about the sustainability of how the stuff you buy is made. An example would be to be very careful about buying clothing made from fabrics that include elastic material content like spandex. This is hard to do because even cotton fabric production has a massive range of impact depending on how it is grown, harvested and processed. And Free Market Competition clearly cannot be expected to help consumers better understand things like that. In fact, the temptation and misleading marketing saturated consumer systems will do the opposite of better informing consumers.
    • Reduce the energy requirements associated with recreation and entertainment. Stop recreating and being entertained in ways that have higher energy demands. Stop enjoying the recreational use of things like power-boats, dirt-bikes, ATVs, ski-lifts and artificial ice surfaces. Even renewable electric powered entertainment and recreation should be limited to those who are, through no fault of their own, physically less able to do activities Unassisted.
    • Stop watching downloaded movies or streamed video content, especially higher definition content - Read text and look at pictures instead.
    • Reduce the energy needs for heating and cooling, at home, at work and where shopping. Have a smaller, better sealed home with double or triple glazed windows and well insulated surfaces. Have the most energy efficient heating and cooling possible, including having buried dense masses as part of the systems (masses heated by the cooling of the living space, or cooled by the heating of the living space).
    • Do not choose to live in a region that will have high requirements for heating or cooling. Population growth should only happen in regions where high energy requirements for heating or cooling, or things like energy intensive provision of fresh water, will not be required. People should be encouraged and helped to move away from regions where those energy requirements for decent living would be high.
    • Reduce the energy required for daily commutes. Work from home or live near where you work and shop near where you work or live. And walk or ride a bike as mush as possible rather than using renewable energy powered transportation.

    Things like that, combined with actions that actually reduce the energy required for producing, delivering and end-of-use recycling of consumed goods, would dramatically reduce energy demand, without anyone having to wear a Hair-Shirt or Live in a Cave or be too cold or too hot. But Lazy people or people who are "Self Gratification Needy" or "Impressions of Status relative to Others Needy" will not like that.

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  28. One Planet Only Forever @27

    "I find arguments that a person should not be expected to live a "hair shirt lifestyle" to be poorly substantiated statements that can be tragically popular because people can make-up whatever they want as their understanding based on that type of 'brief marketing-style' claim. "

    Well ok true enough, but I have never siad that. What I've said is promoting that sort of extreme lifestyle change with its ultra low energy consumption is crazy, because the cure becomes worse than the climate problem, and few people are likely to do it, so I'm not going to waste my energy on promoting it. M Moores documentary falls into this category. He effectively leaves us without any plausible solution at all, so its hard to put a positive spin on this so called documentary.

    " Examples of what dramatic reduction of energy use can actually mean:"

    Yes sure, but this still falls short of what M Moore is claming in terms of reducing energy use. They are mostly useful ideas, and I promote many of the same ideas on various websites,  but not everyone can afford triple glazing etc or will be prepared to give up so much. I'm just saying we can probably cut our energy use by maybe 25%, 50% at best, so we still need a lot of renewable energy. This is pretty much the IPCC mitigation strategy.

     

     

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  29. nigelj,

    I have not watched the movie. I have seen so many valid criticisms of its content that I see little point in watching it.

    But, base on the criticisms I have seen, I am skeptical about claims that Gibbs/Moore offer any descriptions of what should be done. Their "Reduce the Population" and "Reduce the energy consumption" points appear to have no supporting recommendations presented. They do not appear to say they mean. Their claims are like saying "Limit the harm done by climate change - without stating any limit", or "Make America Great Again". Pointless statements can be Harmfully Popular.

    The Sustainable Development Goals are robustly established current understandings. And they can continue to be improved upon. They were published in 2015. Moore and Gibbs seem to be unaware of the SDGs, or any of the massive amount of awareness and understanding that is the basis for the SDGs.

    What have Moore/Gibbs been spending their time on since 2015? Why? And why did they make such an inaccurate and misleading production and release it on Earth Day in 2020?

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  30. OPOF @29, I agree Gibbs and Moores suggestions of lower population growth and limiting energy consumption are so vague as to be useless. They also hand the denialists ammunition, because the denialists will just say all we have to do is limit population growth.

    "What have Moore/Gibbs been spending their time on since 2015? Why?And why did they make such an inaccurate and misleading production and release it on Earth Day in 2020?"

    They obviously did it on earth day for maximium exposure and to do maximum damage.  I dont know for  a fact what their motivations are but one of the reviews I read said that they believe that renewables are just a device for fat cat billionaures to make profits. That is enough for me to work out what their motivations are political. I dont need a better explanation. Its  similar to the way the denialists hate things like carbon taxes, so they attack climate science. 

    There are many valid  criticisms of badly behaved rich people, and capitalism, but Moores and Gibbs are just patently stupid ones. Some rich people will make a profit. So what? If we dont want that, then governments need to provide the funding or you have laws against excessive profiteering, but we don't go and rubbish renewables.

    I see you prefer to concentrate on lists of positive things we can do to reduce energy consumption. That should be our main focus, but its worth discussing the doco.

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  31. nigelj@26

    "Yes true about the low hanging fruit. It may surprise you, but I do think all the other solutions you list are realistic and people may yet adopt them better.But M Moores solutions require we go much further than that. Remember his solution to climate change is lower population growth and less use of energy. Full stop."

     

    Thing is I can see that the extreme advocacy of living to the true definition of sustainability (as put forward by one contributor on RealClimate), and that literally doing that is impossible without hardship, and people will resist it, could both be right.

    I have had a go at making significant inroads into my carbon footprint. I cut right down on meat intage, rented an allotment, turned the thermostat down to 12C in winter and compensated with a hoodie (UK winters are too cold to dispence with space heating completely), don't buy anything that I can't logically justify, use an energy provider which invests in renewable energy, avoid flying, use the train to visit family (240 miles away), cycle all local journeys, and worked up to being able to cycle to work daily (19 mile round trip with hills). I even went as far as going car free for about three years. The latter worked until I was hit by a careless driver and nearly died in hospital. My experience taught me that going beyond the low hanging fruit is tough, and is made worse with the system punishing me for taking more sustainable options. Visiting family by train costs over £100. Driving costs £45 in fuel. Which mode of transport would most people choose? I can't transport hundreds of kg of manure to my allotment for soil improvement, but now have a car again which solves that problem. Choosing a bicycle as my primary mode of transport means taking costs, in the form of limited mobility and increased vulnerability (externalised by motorists), because everyone else is still driving, but the tangible benefits are not immediately apparent, there are lagged benefits in the form of reduced financial cost and increased cardiovascular health.

    I can't see how you can convince people en-masse to make lifestyle changes that make life less convenient or enjoyable without a tangible benefit, yet ultimately we have to do something to knock down emissions, and that something (or combination of somethings) is going to have to go beyond the easy stuff. This is where I haven't come across a decent solution, although cleaning up energy production is a good start, how do you tell businesses to stop having meetings requiring people to fly abroad, and use video conferencing instead, or stop people from buying consumer goods they don't need, or manufacture stuff to last so it doesn't need replacing as often, instead of either designing things to break just past the guarentee or telling people they need the latest model of xyz because..., or tell people to holiday locally instead of flying? Some of this could be done with regulation, but people don't like regulation beyond a certain point, and any democratic government that goes beyond that point will find themselves out of office next election.

    I guess I am looking for some hope (to combat despair), in the form of a step by step feasible method of transitioning to a significantly more sustainable way of living on a global scale, it doesn't have to be the purist version, your definition would be adequate.

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  32. alea @31, I admire your efforts to cut the carbon footprint, and I understand the frustrations and philisophical dilemmas.

    This is how I rationalise the thing to myself, and my own philosophy. I have cut my own carbon footprint somewhat, although not to the same extent as you. My approach is based around the fact that the IPCC plan to mitigate climate change essentially specifies that the "heavy lifting" be done with renewable energy, (especially a new electricity grid) but that this cannot deal with all the issues, so we also need 1)negative emissions technologies and 2)to reduce our own carbon footprints and energy consumption. Given that renewables energy can do the heavy lifting, maybe around 75% we obviously dont have to reduce our energy consumption to near zero, and I have taken a 25% reduction as being appropriate.

    So I'm certainly prepared to play my part. I drive a small fuel efficient car and will buy an electric car at some stage. I mostly use public transport so the car is not a priority. I have an efficient heater etc but in no way am I prepared to turn the thermostat right down to 12 degrees in winter, its just too cold for me even with an extra sweatshirt, and goes beyond a 25% reduction in my energy use. I fly much less than I used to, but will still do some flying.

    Now if the system is unable or unwilling to provide a new energy grid, Im not prepared to go beyond moderate 25% reductions in my carbon footprint and use of energy. While the climate problem is serious, its not serious enough for me to reduce my lifestyle back to that of a third world farmer, and I will not severely punish myself, or become a sacrificial lamb for the failings of the wider system to provide a renewable energy grid. I am prepared play my reasonable part, and we all need to do that, but nothing more, and my conscience is clear. The heavy lifting has to come form renewable energy.

    Not saying everyone has to approach it like me. Just saying how I do it.

    You make a good point about people needing to see tangible benefits for reducing carbon footprints. I tend to concentrate on promoting lifestyle changes which do have tangible benefits, eg flying a bit less save people money. We could probably get our energy use down 25% in ways that do have tangible benefits.

    I see little point in promoting extreme things that people are incredibly unlikely to do, like absolutely massive reductions in energy use, because it wastes my energy. I also don't waste my time promoting crazy stuff, like giving up on all or most technology because its all allegedly unsustainable. We need a more specific and focused approach. 

    A lot of the general envirinmental issue should really be about reducing waste. National Geographic march 2020 edition has an excellent article on this.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  Fixed typo.

  33. niglej and alea (and anyone else interested),

    The aspect of the movie I sort of agree with is the need to reduce the energy used by people to live decent lives. But the conversion of all energy production to renewable sources needs to be achieved even if that is "more expensive" energy. And the energy being "more expensive" cannot be allowed to be an excuse to reduce assistance to the less fortunate to ensure that every human lives at least abasic decent life (ending poverty).

    Everybody's actions add up to become the future. The lack of helpful corrective actions, and lack of support for helpful corrective leadership, by people through the past 30 years needs to be understood to be inexcusable. It has added up to become the much larger harm done to the future generations (which includes people today, because today is the future from actions through the past 30 years) and the much more challenging correction of developed behaviours today.

    Almost every suggestion I made to reduce impact can be acted on today. No new technical developments are required. And none were needed 30 years ago for people to behave less harmfully. And that understanding existed long before the makers of this fiction-filled documentary made-up their stories.

    A significant factor keeping people from adopting the changes of behaviour that would help reduce the amount of climate change harm is that the better behaviour is not Cheaper, Easier, or More Enjoyable. Those are poor excuses to Not Behave Better.

    And what can clearly be understood, can be a Common Sense, is that competitions for impressions of superiority relative to Others based on popularity, profitability, and materialism related impressions will develop harmful results unless the harmful options are kept out of the competition or those things are: made to be more expensive, harder to do, or collectively understood to be undesirable behaviour.

    Developing a liking for harmful activity also develops powerful motivation to resist correcting the bahaviour.

    Somehow I evaded the socializing development influences of consumption and materialism economic competition even though I grew up immersed in it. Long ago I developed an appreciation for the precursors to current day understandings like the Sustainable Development Goals and other "sustainability focused" Governing Objectives that have been developed. There are many well identified needs to correct harmful unsustainable developments.

    The 1972 Stockholm Conference was the first formal acknowledgment by global leadership that sustainability of human activity required Governing to make corrections of Harmful unsustainable things that had already developed and Helpful Governing of the direction of new developments. That awareness and understanding has been increased and improved since then, particularly the comprehensive set of Objectives that are presented as the Sustainable Development Goals.

    My constantly developing focus is "Expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to ensure no harm is done to Others and help develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity".

    That includes the detailed discussion of the documentary as it relates to that overarching governing objective of the importance of helping achieve and improve on the SDGs and the related effort to limit the harm being done, that hopefully Common Sense Meaning of Life.

    Every Individual's actions that have impact outside of the Individual add up to become the collective future. So it is important to consider cases where a person identifies something Helpful that they believe is a result of their actions if their actions are also understandably Harmful.

    It is obvious that an Individual should try to be more helpful to themselves than they are harmful to themselves. That can be hard to do in a socioeconomic system with misleading marketing that is allowed to tempt people to believe and do things that may not really be helpful to them or Others and could actually be very harmful (tobacco and alcohol marketing is just one example). What is harder for many people to accept is that that Personal Focused basis for decision making is not valid when the Individual's actions have affects beyond or outside of the Individual. That can lead to harmful unsustainable activities becoming popular and profitable.

    It needs to become Common Sense that it is not legitimate to do an evaluation summing up perceptions of Helpfulness and Harmfulness to Others. That type of evaluation is only valid for an Individual's actions that have affects restricted to the Individual. A person's actions only affecting themselves is rare in any society. The majority of an Individual's actions have affects beyond the Individual. In those cases an individual's actions need to Not be Harmful to Others, and the Individual should aspire to be Helpful to Others. A person who benefits from harmful actions should not get credit for also being helpful. What a sustainable society and economy needs is for Harmfulness to Others to be minimized (hopefully being zero) while, in parallel, helpfulness to Others is increased. One exception is medical interventions, in which case there is a need to evaluate the helpfulness minus harmfulness of the intervention and only apply it if there is expected to be a net-benefit.

    That understanding, or justified improvements of it, needs to become the Common Sense that governs everything that all humans do.

    Once a person acquires and accepts that Common Sense they will almost certainly see that there are many people who have developed many motivations to resist acquiring and accepting that Common Sense. They will appreciate that they themselves had to overcome many developed beliefs, and resist many temptations, as they pursued the realization of that Common Sense. And they will also have had to limit and correct many of the activities that they had developed a liking for.

    That personal experience then helps recognise the many ways that harmful unsustainable activity become popular and profitable and resist being limited or corrected.

    The economic understanding is fairly straight forward. The competition for popularity and profit can only be expected to produce sustainable helpful results if the vast majority participating are Governed by "Expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to ensure no harm is done to Others and help develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity". That majority needs to have the power to Govern and Limit the behaviour of those who will not responsibly self-govern that way. More harmful and less sustainable ways of doing things can be easier and quicker ways to "Win the Competition". Unless those activities are excluded from the competition, or cannot become popular or profitable, they will end up Harmfully Winning a Lot for People who do not care to limit how they Enjoy Their Winning in Their lifetime (a repugnant result of Ungoverned Unlimited Competition in Pursuit of Happiness).

    Another way to say it is that competitions for impressions of superiority can develop very harmful results, especially when they are played out in competitions for popularity and profitability. Pursuit of popularity and profit have undeniably developed harmful unsustainable activities. That is mainly because the more harmful and less sustainable ways of doing things are easier and cheaper. But an additional harmful influence is misleading marketing, promotion that does not more fully inform consumers about the unsustainability or harmfulness of what they are being tempted to want. That misleading marketing can even make people resist becoming more aware and understanding of how harmfully unsustainable the things they have developed a desire and liking for actually are. The result is a system that results in the development of harmful unsustainable activity because it is cheaper, easier and more easily made to appear desirable. And that type of system can clearly be seen to also develop powerful resistance to correction of harmful unsustainable activity that becomes popular or profitable.

    So a major problem is competition for impressions of superiority relative to others based on popularity and profitability not being effectively governed and limited by expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to help develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity.

    Achieving and improving on the Sustainable Development Goals will require corrections of the developed socioeconomic-political systems, not just corrections of developed economic activity. And many people can be expected to powerfully resist that type of correction occurring. Allowing a Correction of awareness and understanding is understood to be heading down the "slippery slope" towards corrections of the existing systems.

    Game On. Keep on Expanding Awareness and Improving Understanding and Sustainable Improvements have an increased chance of developing.

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  34. 'A new documentary Planet of the Humans by Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs – hardly right-wing climate change deniers – set out to understand how fossil fuel lobbyists and corrupt politicians had thwarted the increasingly urgent transition to a carbon neutral future. What they found, however – and what the documentary details – is an equally corrupt “green energy” lobby that has no real solutions to the predicament we are in. As Michael Donnelly at Counterpunch explains:
    “The basic conclusion is that we have been following corporate foundation-financed, Democratic Party-tied misleadership and that is why we are where we are."
    The issue here is not with the seriousness of the crisis, but with the way just one solution is on offer; and it just happens to be the one that makes the rich even richer and the poor even poorer.'

    consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2019/08/13/goldsmiths-kebab/?fbclid=IwAR2zUO79Dbw3Cm3E9lS0FQCrWIQMlQBP4SgN3Xknguu_p3ZCmNeHHUiIlu4

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  35. James Charles @34 , 

    <" The issue here is not with the seriousness of the crisis, but with the way just one solution is on offer; and it just happens to be the one that makes the rich even richer and the poor even poorer. ">

    I respectfully suggest that you [plural] have mis-diagnosed "the issue".

    The actual issue is the damage and degradation of the physical world, deriving from AGW.  (Damage in relation to the currently-constituted human society as well as in relation to the plants & animals which had adapted to the Holocene climate.)

    And regarding "the rich even richer and the poor even poorer"  ~ well, that is a human societal condition which preceded (by decades & centuries) modern global warming.  If you have any social or economic evidence that "green energy" has - or is destined to - substantially worsen an already grossly inequitable situation . . . then I'm sure readers here would be very interested to see your presentation !

    # The website reference you linked to, is (IMO) a poorly-argued piece, consisting of a series of half-truths spun into pessimistic nihilism ~ exactly the sort of attitude that Churchill took during World War Two . . . not.

    [ My apologies to Churchill, who wouldn't have finished a sentence with the negative adverb    ;-)    ]

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  36. The need to be more aware and better understand the Politics of Status and Freer Market Economics, and the need to correct the developed systems and correct many of the currently developed results of the systems, is an important point exposed by the documentary.

    The Economic Systems and Political Systems are two significant things that humans have made-up. They could be Helpful Tools for the development of sustainable improvements for Humanity. They should help Everyone benefit in some way, especially the least fortunate. And nobody should be harmed in any way by the actions of either system.

    Being Helpful Tools would require the systems to be governed and limited by expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to help develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity.

    It is clear that without Helpful Governing and Effective Limits those Tools, the economy and politics, can develop into harmful weapons of mass destruction rather than being Helpful Devises that benefit Humanity.

    The people who put the economy on a pedestal and try to free it from constraints play politics to weaponize the systems for their advantage because they perceive potential personal benefits from doing that.

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