The other day I decided to watch Michael Moore’s documentary “Planet of the Humans”. That was a mistake. It made me so angry that my wife told me off for shouting at the TV and I decided to make a debunking video.
I have since found multiple good debunking videos online and therefore aborted my own attempt. For example this one:
Moore’s documentary tries to present solar and wind energy as part of the problem rather than of the solution. At some point somebody explains that solar panels are no better than fossil fuels because some coal is used during their production. How dare you call this a clean energy source!
The reality is that energy sources that don’t emit any greenhouse gases during their lifecycle do not exist. Even hydro plants produce methane gas because of rotting vegetation. Does this mean that electricity from coal is just as bad as electricity from solar panels? Of course it doesn’t!
If you want to fairly compare energy sources, the question to ask is how much greenhouse gases are emitted over its lifetime per kWh of electricity produced. If we look at it that way, solar panels do 20 times better than coal plants and wind turbines nearly 70 times better.
But the solar industry is not the only target of this documentary. Apparently green investors are all pure evil because they also invested some money in bio fuels. And electrical cars are just as bad as petrol cars because they can be charged using electricity from the grid. The grid is no good either of course, because of coal power. Wind turbines aren’t sustainable at all because they don’t keep producing electricity forever without maintenance. The movie is full of this kind of juvenile binary thinking.
What conclusions are we supposed to draw from this? If everything is equally bad, we might as well keep burning coal. Which incidentally, is why some right-wing media love this documentary.
Or perhaps Michael Moore just wants us to give up and slit our wrists. It would explain the scene of the dying orang utan at the end, which is as depressing as it is random.
One message the documentary does get right, is that technological improvements alone are not going to save us from extinction. We must drastically change our behavior to stand a fighting chance. And that’s going to hurt.
Because “The planet of the Humans” doesn’t give any suggestions as to what we can or should do I thought I would. So here is a number of things you can do that have real impact, in order of increasing effort. I realize that the order is highly subjective. What is easy for me, may be hard for you and vice versa.
- Switch to a green electricity supplier
This is literally only a few minutes work. In the Netherlands I can recommend Vandebron
- Switch to a green bank
More involved than switching energy supplier, but not much more. I can recommend Triodos Bank
- Switch to a green pension fund
How much sense does it make to have your pension savings invested in industries that reduce the chances of you ever reaching old age? It may not be easy to convince your boss, but if you succeed the impact can be massive.
- Make your house more energy efficient
Hard to do when you rent, but if you own your house these improvements tend to pay for themselves in the end, besides making your house much more comfortable. I’m always happy to share our experiences.
Note: standard solar panels have around 20% efficiency these days, which is a lot better than the 8% of the outdated panels shown in the documentary.
- Drastically reduce your meat consumption
I stopped eating meat almost completely about twenty years ago. It took some getting used to in the beginning. But nowadays it’s much easier thanks to products like the Beyond burger.
You don’t need to become 100% vegan to have a great impact. That would be binary thinking again. Eating meat only once a week is 7 times better than skipping meat only once a week.
- Limit the amount of children you have
The impact on our earth is roughly the amount of humans times their consumption. This point may be very easy or virtually impossible, depending on whether you want to have children or not. But if you raise your children to be environmentally conscious, they may have a positive contribution to the survival of humanity.
- Stop flying
This is the hardest one for me personally. Although it’s relatively easy to use trains and boats on holidays, if you are willing to book on time and pay a bit more. I find it impossible not to fly for work and family visits. The only thing we can do is compensate our flights, which is better than nothing I guess, but not a real solution