On 21 April, on the eve of Earth Day, a video was posted on YouTube – a documentary released and promoted by Michael Moore. It appeared to support discredited ideas like “population control” as a primary response to the climate crisis. (An emphasis on population control is highly problematic, with some key scientists calling it “imperialist framing”). 350.org rejects that premise and we focus our demands on other efforts as we fight for climate justice (more on why here).
The film also presents a series of incorrect, outdated ideas and data points about the transition to renewable energy, the climate movement, and 350.org.
Don’t just take our word for it. Below are a list of the errors and problems throughout the video, derived from sources independent of 350.org
Its information on clean tech is ancient or wrong
The video suggests that “renewable energy” is not sustainable, not suitable for large-scale energy production, and produces more (or as much) pollution as fossil fuels. The data-points it relies on are either out of date or were never true to begin with.
- Leah H Stokes’ analysis at Vox
- An overview from The Energy Mix
- Ketan Joshi has a great long piece on how the technology discussed is “ancient”
- Some short tweets on why the idea that renewables create more pollution than fossil fuels is not accurate.
- We’re not sure the video should be taken down, but some climate scientists are.
We recognise that there are real problems with the sustainable production, distribution, construction of, and access to renewable energy – that’s an important debate to have. It’s not a debate that is helped by inaccuracies nor by this film. Here are 2 examples of ways that 350.org continues to raise conversations about climate justice and renewable energy – especially taking guidance from local communities.
Its criticism of biomass misses the real targets
350.org doesn’t support biomass (or biofuels) as a part of a global shift away from fossil fuels. The suggestion that we do is not based on any effort to check our global positions, statements, or work (see more on this problem below). Our co-founder, Bill McKibben, like the maker of the video, did previously support burning biomass. However as the science shifted, so did he and he’s made that abundantly clear.
Although biomass is problematic, as climate scientist Michael Mann says “The fact that 50% of the film is about where 2% of our energy comes from tells you everything you need to know.” And just to prove our point – here’s the Biomass industry attacking us – so much for us being “supporters”.
It’s not a good faith attempt to have an important conversation
The film names several organisations and people directly, suggesting that as leaders in the environmental movement they are “leading us off a cliff.”
We’re up for a discussion about problems with renewable energy and with all of our campaigns’ strategies and tactics – but that’s a conversation that should happen in good faith… and this film doesn’t argue in good faith.
What do we mean?
- The suggestion that we (at 350.org) have profited from campaigning for divestment from fossil fuels is flat out wrong. As coverage here shows, we have never promoted one fund over another or received a dime for doing so. We did partner with Green Century Investments in producing a guide to divestment. That guide lists many options for investment and our partnership was in production, there was no financial relationship.
- The above, like Bill’s position on biomass, could have been ascertained by asking us. In fact we wrote to the producers when we heard about the movie, offering the chance to interview us and there was no reply. That’s not ‘starting a conversation’; that’s manufacturing a controversy for clicks. And it hurts. See Bill’s personal reflections on it here.
And the result of this movie has not been a good conversation, but has brought glee from the far-right and supporters and promoters of the fossil fuel industry. We won’t link to them but you can see proof of that in reporting by:
We are disappointed by this inaccurate, misleading, and bad-faith effort to contribute to the most important debate of our times. We’ll not spend too long dwelling on it though, as there’s a fossil fuel industry to fight.
Note: In late May, Michael Moore claimed that “a company funded by the same people who 350.org” had filed a copyright claim in an attempt to get Planet of the Humans removed from YouTube. 350.org has not made any attempt to censor or remove the film and has only sought to clarify its misinformation about the energy transition and the climate movement through statements like this one.