'Planet of the Humans': Michael Moore-backed green energy docu slammed by climate activists as 'misleading'

The documentary explores the negative aspects of alternate energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass, but scientists and activists say the film is 'unsubstantiated' and 'unscientific'


                            'Planet of the Humans': Michael Moore-backed green energy docu slammed by climate activists as 'misleading'
Michael Moore (Getty Images)

On Earth Day this year, Michael Moore, the acclaimed filmmaker of documentaries such as 'Bowling for Columbine' and 'Fahrenheit 9/11', released 'Planet of the Humans', a documentary tackling alternative energy that was directed and produced by Jeff Gibbs, Moore's longtime collaborator.

'Planet of the Humans' will be free to watch on YouTube for 30 days, however, environmentalists, climate activists and scientists are calling out the film for misinformation and misleading content.

The documentary explores the negative aspects of alternate energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass - for instance, the film shows abandoned industrial wind and solar farms, while new ones are built after cutting down forests. Gibbs says while starring at a former solar farm in California, "It suddenly dawned on me what we were looking at was a solar dead zone. I learned that solar panels don't last."

Moreover, the documentary also promotes Malthusian ideas that the world is running out of energy. “We have to have our ability to consume reigned in,” says an environmental leader. “Without some major die-off of the human population there is no turning back,” says a scientist. 

The documentary also calls out well-known climate activism leaders like Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, Robert F Kennedy, Jr, and Sierra Club’s Executive Director, in promoting pollution-intensive biomass energies, as well as natural gas.

A general view of the Yamakura Dam floating solar plant on April 16, 2019, in Ichihara, Japan. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Among those calling out the latest documentary to be associated with Moore, is Josh Fox, director and environmental activist known for his Emmy award-winning documentary, 'Gasland'. Fox tweeted, "The film is an unsubstantiated, unscientific, poorly made piece of yellow journalism which attacks proven renewable energy and science."

He adds, "The film irresponsibly ignores the decades of peer-reviewed climate & energy science that goes into the current environmental movement," and goes on to say, "The film disregards the #GreenNewDeal, the 100% renewable energy plans of Stanford University and others, the @BernieSanders campaign and the basic foundations of science upon which renewable energy policy."

Other activists have also voiced their concerns over the film. One tweeted, "Wasted 2 hours of my life that I’ll never get back watching this lazily-researched misleading tossed salad of NIMBYism and debunked garbage science. We’re lowering energy prices and GHG emissions while growing economy. Apparently [the] film’s creators prefer smaller economy/population."

Another wrote, "Just so so so disappointing, coming from @MMFlint since I love so many of his films... once he has a chance to digest all the critiques and fact-checking that will be coming his way he'll regret putting his name on it. This misinformation is so dangerous."

A clean energy expert tweeted, "Excited to watch on the eve of earth day but deeply disappointed by the movie. It is misguided, grossly misleading hackariffic effort to discredit and vilify the renewable energy industry and people who have spent decades trying to save the planet."

Leah Stokes, a professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) wrote, "It appears Michael Moore is telling us that clean energy is bad and women should just have fewer babies... so yeah. I'm sure this new documentary will *really* help drive progress on climate... What a lump of coal he's delivered for Earth Day."

She continues, "The idea that clean energy is not clean because it was built while the system is driven by fossil fuels is idiotic. That's why it's called a clean energy transition. You move away from fossil fuels by making clean energy. Eventually, the entire system is clean energy."

Giant wind turbines are powered by strong prevailing winds on May 13, 2008, near Palm Springs, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Environmental scientist and climate write Dana Nuccitelli tweeted, "There is soooooooo much misleading junk in this film. Most of it is focused on biomass from wood, which supplies 2% of energy in the US. And wind turbines are bad because ... they only last several decades and NIMBYs don't like them? I yelled at the screen 3 times watching this."

Nuccitelli then wrote, "My favorite part was when they looked at a former solar farm location in Daggett, CA, now just sand, and declared the revelation that it's become a "solar wasteland." I pulled up Google Maps and found Daggett in the Mojave Desert. It's all sand out there!!! WTF?!"

He continues, "The film also wrote off EVs because of one example in Michigan where the electrical utility got 95% of its electricity from coal. Even in that circumstance, an EV would produce less carbon pollution than a gas car, and most of the grid is cleaner and becoming increasingly clean."

He added, "The film mentioned creosote-soaked railroad ties being burned in biomass facilities. Not mentioned in the film - there are regulations on how much of that is allowed, and many locations are advancing legislation to ban it."

Bill McKibben also posted a response to the allegations against him in the documentary on 350.org's website. He wrote while linking to older articles, "As more scientists studied the consequences of large-scale biomass burning, the math began to show that it would put large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere at precisely the wrong moment: if we break the back of the climate system now, it won’t matter if forests suck it up fifty years hence. And as soon as that became clear I began writing and campaigning on those issues."

He also wrote, "As for taking corporate money, I’ve actually never taken a penny in pay from 350.org, or from any other environmental group. Instead, I’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in honoraria and prizes. And 350.org hasn’t taken corporate money."

McKibben added, " I don’t understand the reasoning behind these particular attacks; when I first heard rumors of them last summer I wrote the producer and director to set the record straight, and never heard back from them. That seems like bad journalism and bad faith."

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