1036 Planet of the Humans

Is Michael Moore on the wrong track with his documentary Planet of the Humans? (A play on words after the film Planet of the Apes?) Wikipedia

Professor Ian Lowe, who writes the article below in The Conversation, asserts: "Environmentalists say the film has caused untold damage when climate action has never been more urgent".

One point that is made early on in the film is that as early as in 1958 climate change was recognised as  - if not ameliorated - potentially be threatening humanity and indeed life in general.

The film opens with the question: "How long do you think humans have?"

Good question. I'm optimistic myself, but I've heard it said not long at all, especially when you consider the fifth filter (see my essay THE FUTURE 2).

The good professor lists among the things the film gets right a concern about population growth. But the main problem with the film is that in his rejection of green energy, Gibbs ends up advocating population control (Spiked). At times, he is far more misanthropic than the people he attacks. ‘It’s not the carbon dioxide molecule destroying the planet. It’s us’, he says. Planet of the Humans is essentially channelling Paul Erhlich’s discredited 1968 book, The Population Bomb. ‘Our human presence is far beyond sustainable’, argues Gibbs.

Indeed, I am aware of another take on the issue ... see my blog 727 "Don't Panic, the truth about population growth"; and in The Guardian another reviewer says:

The film offers only one concrete solution to our predicament: the most toxic of all possible answers. “We really have got to start dealing with the issue of population … without seeing some sort of major die-off in population, there’s no turning back.”

Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When wealthy people, such as Moore and Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, “it’s not Us consuming, it’s Them breeding.” It’s not hard to see why the far right loves this film.

One thing the film gets right is that: 3. Infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide ... I couldn't agree more, I write about it in my essay THREE THOUSAND (the extended version named: The Future is Now).


3 times Michael Moore’s film Planet of the Humans gets 

the facts wrong (and 3 times it gets them right)


an article on The Conversation by Ian Lowe,

Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

Documentary maker Michael Moore’s latest offering, Planet of the Humans, rightly argues that infinite growth on a finite planet is “suicide”. 

However, the film’s bogus claims threaten to overshadow that message ... it makes particularly contentious claims about solar, wind and biomass (organic material which can be burnt for energy). Some claims are valid. Some are out of date, and some are just wrong.

Climate sceptics here and abroad reacted with glee. Environmentalists say the film has caused untold damage when climate action has never been more urgent.

Where the film goes wrong

Critics have compiled a long list of questionable claims made in the film. I will examine three relating to renewable energy. 

1. Solar panels take more energy to produce than they generate

It’s true that some energy is required to build solar panels. The same can be said of coal-fired power stations, oil refineries and gas pipelines.

But the claim that solar panels produce less energy than they generate in their lifetime has long been disproved. It would not be true even if, as the film says, solar panels converted just 8% of the energy they receive into electricity.

But that 8% figure is at least 20 years old. The solar panels now installed on more than two million Australian roofs typically operate at at 15-20% efficiency.

2. Renewables can’t replace fossil fuels

The film claims green energy is not replacing fossil fuels, and that coal plants cannot be replaced by renewables.

To disprove this claim we need look no further than Australia, where wind turbines and solar panels have significantly reducedour dependence on coal.

In South Australia, for example, the expansion of solar and wind has led to the closure of all coal-fired power stations.

3. Solar and wind need fossil fuel back-up

Some renewables systems use gas turbines to fill the gap when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. However renewable energy storage is a cleaner option and is fast becoming cheaper and more widely used.

AEMO forecasts battery storage installations will rise from a low base today to reach 5.6 gigawatts by 2036–37. The costs of storage are also projected to fall faster than previously expected. 

South Australia’s famous grid-scale Tesla battery is being expanded. And the New South Wales government’s pumped hydro plan shows how by 2040, the state could get 89% of its power from solar and wind, backed by pumped hydro storage.

What does the film get right?

Planet of the Humans makes several entirely valid points. Here are a few:

1. We need to deal with population growth

The film observes that population growth is the elephant in the room when it comes to climate change. It says politicians are reluctant to talk about limits to population growth “because that would be bad for business”.

2. Biomass energy does more harm than good

While the film unfairly criticises the environmental benefits of solar energy, it’s true that some so-called clean technologies are not green at all.

As the film asserts, destroying forests for biomass energy does more harm than good – due to loss of habitat, damage to water systems, and the time taken for some forests to recover from the removal of wood.

3. Infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide

The film calculates the sum total of human demands on natural systems as about 1,000 times what it was 200 years ago. It says there are ten times as many people now, each using 100 times the resources, on average.

Experts have repeatedly warned that human demand for resources is damaging the natural systems that all life depends on.

For large parts of the world, the consequences could be catastrophic.