Mikey Moore has a new documentary out.
It’s a bit different than his last film, Where To Invade Next, which ended with a profound message of optimism for the future, and faith in humanity. This new documentary, Planet of the Humans, embraces nihilistic pessimism as the central mood, gently nudging the viewer toward the acceptance of mass genocide to solve humanity’s complex problems. It asks the wrong questions, leans on fossil fuel industry talking points, and omits critical details to every argument presented before finally positing an absolutely abominable “final solution” that would make any hardcore eugenicist proud. To that end, Planet of the Humans proves a brilliant piece of propaganda on par with Larry Diamond’s KONY 2012. It leaves us with the feeling that it will never be possible to crack the nut of renewable energy, so we might as well not even try. Instead, we’ll just have to kill half the population, so we all might as well just kill ourselves right now.
To be fair, we shouldn’t refer to Planet of the Humans as a Michael Moore film, because it’s not. It’s a movie by first-time filmmaker Jeff Gibbs with Moore’s name attached to it as the Executive Producer.
The Michael Moore who shot and directed Where To Invade Next seems to be altogether missing from Planet of the Humans. Aside from the obvious absence of Michael’s voice or likeness anywhere on screen, one can’t help but wonder what happened to the Michael Moore who championed the manifestation of the impossible in Where To Invade Next? Where is the Michael Moore who reminded us that we can overcome impossible odds and change the world for the better?
The nonstop melancholy of Planet of the Humans is finally interrupted at the 37 minute mark during the rapid-fire “materials montage” that employs rapid flashes of time-lapse industrial footage and fast, unsettling music to jar the nervous system and disorient the viewer. The fast-paced montage seems like a welcome change at first, but it is designed to be so upsetting and unsettling as to weaken the viewer’s resistance to what follows, which are the most hopeless and nihilistic claims about human population itself being the intractable dilemma. The implied but just barely unstated solution the film prescribes to cut this Gordian Knot leaves us with a tragically depressing conclusion. In place of suggesting actual solutions, it shits on your heart, blaming you for being alive, during a pandemic. You’re told that your very existence is the problem, and continued life automatically makes everything worse no matter how hard we try because we’re obviously powerless and pathetic, so we should really just give up.
Alongside the nihilism, Planet of the Humans also factually drops the ball at every turn on the subject of energy, while ignoring the massive waste that is inherent in the modern industrialized system.
A handful of well-publicized falsehoods (like the use of 12-year-old footage intended to portray the inefficiency of now-obsolete solar panels) fundamentally undermines the credibility of the documentary, leaving a bold asterisk beside every point it presents.
Beyond ignoring more than a decade of clean energy progress, we’re told that renewables can never replace fossil fuels, that solar panels require more energy to produce than they generate, and that fossil fuel “backups” will be forever required, in spite of abundant evidence to the contrary.
The film isn’t particularly informative, but rather, attempts to lower the viewer’s defenses with boredom and banality while simultaneously creating a laundry list of homework assignments for the astute. But keeping track of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies quickly becomes a dull chore of nauseating proportions.
For instance, the film dramatically dismisses ethanol as an inefficient fuel on the specious notion that “there’s just not enough corn in the world,” deliberately ignoring the well-known fact that corn-sourced ethanol is considered a joke in the world of biofuels. Every serious researcher and industry enthusiast aware of David Blume‘s work knows that ethanol can be made from a wide variety of easily-attainable sources, including agricultural waste, kelp, swamp reeds and a host of other sustainable plant sources that vary wildly depending on geographic location. How we decide which crops we should use for sourcing ethanol largely depends on what bioregion we live in. And it doesn’t take much energy to power a small still, especially if employing a rocket mass system, which may be one of the most energy-efficient stoves on the planet.
But such systems are best used on a small scale by individuals. As soon as we try to turn them into an industry, we push up against major limits and begin to encounter extraordinary problems. Burning logs in wood stoves is another example of an efficient and low-cost means of powering individual homes. But attempts to turn wood stoves into a massive industry invariably leads to catastrophic results, as chronicled by the film’s segment on biomass.
Turning to more industry to cure the problems of industry is fundamentally absurd. It’s like using vodka to ween off your addiction to whiskey.
And this is the central problem with Planet of the Humans: The filmmakers assume we can only power civilization with massive industrial projects that are highly destructive and which necessitate huge amounts of distribution networks over large tracts of land, i.e. the bulldozing of Joshua Tree forests to make room for a giant solar farm. It never occurs to anyone featured in the film that maybe solar panels could instead be installed on existing rooftops and individual residences. Wouldn’t that be a more efficient way to have our cake and eat it too? We could have the solar panels while also preserving the natural world. Seems logical. So why don’t we do it? Because it would hurt the energy companies.
The minds responsible for producing Planet of the Humans failed miserably to do their due diligence in researching the subject of energy. They ask the wrong questions and arrive at backwards conclusions, universally ignoring the majoritarian evidence provided by authentic activist movements – movements that the film fails to mention at all. The reason renewables have failed to replace fossil fuels is not because they can’t match the efficiency. There’s simply no profit for the fossil fuel companies in empowering people.
The film completely ignores the well-documented fact that General Motors killed the original electric cars by acquiring patent ownership and eventually destroying every model ever built. Planet of the Humans also fails to mention any of the dynamos invented by private individuals who were either bribed, intimidated, or murdered for their technology by the energy monoliths. If we have an efficient technology which doesn’t require constant re-fueling, the energy companies lose all of their power. But if those energy companies are the only source for powering our lives, we become forever dependent upon them. And why would any company ever relinquish that kind of power?
But producing energy is only half the equation. The filmmakers give no mention whatsoever to the gigawatts of energy unnecessarily wasted by this obsolete consumerist system.
Giant screens on Times Square and Las Vegas Boulevard continue blasting advertisements at empty streets while everyone remains indoors. Couldn’t those behemoth screens be deactivated during the lockdown? Doesn’t it take a huge amount of energy to unnecessarily blare those ads all day and all night long? It does. But someone paid good money for those ads. So we’ll continue wasting the electricity regardless.
Our system institutionalizes waste and inefficiency to the point that apples picked in England are shipped to South Africa to be washed and waxed before they’re shipped right back to England for sale. Tuna caught on America’s Pacific shores is shipped to Japan for canning, only to be shipped back to the U.S. and then trucked all around the nation for distribution. Products are designed for the dump, with deliberate obsolescence programmed right into them, ensuring that stuff breaks down as quickly as possible so that we have to throw things away and buy more of them. And all that garbage ends up somewhere, be it the landfills or the oceans.
And consider the outrageous energy consumption required to mine Bitcoin cryptocurrency. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI), the Bitcoin industry currently consumes more than 7 gigawatts of electricity annually – more than the entire energy consumption of the country of Switzerland. This also means that Bitcoin mining consumes more energy than mining physical gold:
“Independent researchers Max Krause and Thabet Tolaymat calculated that it takes about 17 megajoules of computer power to generate US$1 in Bitcoin, even when the energy used for peripheral activities, such as cooling computers, is not factored in. By comparison, it takes 5 megajoules to mine US$1 in gold and 7 megajoules to mine an equivalent value of platinum. Aluminium-mining energy requirements, at 122 megajoules, topped the researchers’ list.”
We know the devices are bad for us, bad for the sweatshop workers making them, and bad for the planet. But it’s just a given that Apple Corporation should be able to continuously waste Earth’s finite resources to continuously manufacture slightly improved versions of their obsolete technologies in the most wasteful ways imaginable. Through the scarcity-driven mechanism of consumer capitalism, competing enterprises make slightly better versions of the same kind of gizmo, rapidly devouring rare earth minerals just to manufacture something destined to be tossed into a landfill a few months later. If the devices we’re addicted to for cat pictures and pornography are so bad for the environment, then maybe we need to find more wholesome ways of entertaining ourselves.
If there are too many tomatoes, we don’t distribute the excess to those who need them; we destroy them to manufacture scarcity and drive prices up. Just like Monsanto’s constant appeal that “we need GMO to feed the world” because “there’s just no other way to do it,” industry captains deliberately ignore the unthinkable waste inherent at every level of this system. Because waste and consumption drive the whole engine, and the creation of a different system would dethrone the present ruling oligarchs. When given the choice between making money or exercising ethics, the results are in for how multinationals behave.
Our central problem has nothing to do with the number of people living on the planet. The problem is intentional inefficiency and unnecessary consumption. How much energy is wasted unnecessarily on a daily basis on truly nonessential activities like advertising, marketing, and war? How would the world be different if our our energy needs weren’t under the control of mercenaries and mafiosos?
Burning gasoline, for example, releases an ongoing toxic cocktail of chemicals that most of us are completely unaware of. As David Blume explains, ethanol is not only a more efficient fuel, it’s free from the plethora of unknown chemicals that prematurely wear down our engines, pollute the air, and compromise our health:
“We all know what gas is; it’s a whole stew of byproducts –not primary products– from oil refineries. They make plastic. They make linoleum. They make pesticides. And then whatever is left over ends up being thrown together and they call it gasoline, and then they charge us to get rid of their toxic waste.”
Ethanol does not pollute your engine the way gasoline does
Regardless of how many people there are, we cannot sustain our present trajectory on an oil economy without destroying the biosphere. Instead of focusing how many people must be purged for us to continue wasting resources and living irresponsibly, we should be slowing down the death-spiral of cyclical consumerism. We should be codifying “right to repair” protections to make it legal for individuals to repair and update their devices. We should be outlawing the obsolescence model of manufacturing.
America accounts for less than 5% of the world’s population but uses 25% of the world’s resources, maintaining a notorious reputation as the world’s least efficient nation. The question is not “How much energy will it take for the entire world to live like industrialists?” The question is, “Why should the rest of the world embrace this industrialized model as the only correct one?”
Why can’t America simply lessen her energy consumption? To say we can’t eliminate waste or become more efficient with our energy use seems intellectually lazy. But to then advocate the genocide of half of Earth’s human population crosses the line into megalomaniacal insanity.
It’s not the humans that are the problem. It’s the sociopaths who have led the human race down these dead-end roads with their limitless greed and arrogant power struggles. And they’ve convinced some of us to condone blaming the poor and the powerless for actions made by the rich and the powerful. A few wealthy capitalists ruined “freedom” so now there’s no other choice than to force the rest of us into China-style tyranny.
Counter to the allegations of despots throughout history, the size of the human population has never been directly responsible for as many of our problems as we’re led to believe. Even when there were orders-of-magnitude fewer people, oligarchs of antiquity were insisting that “overpopulation” would be the death of everyone. What they’re really worried about is how they’re going to maintain their power amid growing opposition. Just how in the hell are they going to control an increasingly complex living system that’s suddenly becoming aware of itself and yearns to be free?
The follies of the billionaire class are projected onto the so-called consumers of this system, all of whom are blamed for demanding these toxic products and inefficient systems in the first place. The Market, we are told, merely responded to demand with supply. But poor kids in trailer parks aren’t responsible for permanently polluting America’s aquifers and watersheds with hydro-fracking. Inner-city children living in the projects didn’t spark America’s imperial wars around the world. The crimes of industry are not done for our benefit, but for investment gain and power accumulation at the top.
If we built an efficient civilization living in harmony with the rhythms of life, we wouldn’t be prioritizing entertainment and convenience over health and liberty. Just because we don’t have enough energy to run our video games and movie theaters and shopping malls and dance clubs without fossil fuels doesn’t mean we need to cull half the human population. It means we need to finally grow up and realize that perhaps we were being entertained to distract us away from what was being stolen from us. It’s time to wake up to the fact that we have all been living in a dream world for a long time. We’ve allowed ourselves to become a nation of infants in adult bodies, chasing ass and alcohol in a hazy bazaar of meaningless pursuits. Perhaps it’s finally time for industrial society to put down the devices and give Civilization a try.
The timing of this film almost seems like a coordinated effort to get us to all accept the outcomes planned for us by the unelected technocrats holding our civilization hostage. Planet of the Humans abdicates all responsibility from the populace, implying that only the elites can do anything of consequence, in order to produce a feeling of helplessness and resignation in the viewer. Funny this documentary should come out right as Bill Gates introduces his new microchip-laced snake oil.
But Planet of the Humans wasn’t completely horrible. It did make some legitimate points about Greenwashing; the feel-good, false-solutions of big industrial “green” practices. We’re shown how industry naturally games the system to continue operating as usual with little to no impact on their bottom line. Rebranding is cheaper and easier than real change and regulators are typically so captured by industry that doing so often bucks regulators and even prominent environmentalists off the industrialists backs.
And it’s refreshing to see the faux green movement get another facelift, as many so-called “green” organizations are completely corrupt and have been for a long time. The documentary Cowspiracy also exposed this reality in 2014, showing how major environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, Sierra Club, 350.org, and many others, ignore the catastrophic pollution from industrialized animal agriculture. But even when compared with the downright depressing reality presented by Cowspiracy, the legitimate points made by Planet of the Humans seem needlessly hopeless and nihilistic in tone.
That the film sunk to dishonest lows in order to make these points created a wave of highly provocative indignation that seemed to make the necessary conversation even more pronounced. This technique is often utilized by the likes of Alex Jones and referred to as a “Meme War”. Both sides throw a mix of truth and lies onto an issue, like fuel onto a fire, to garner attention and outrage until a critical mass of irritated people get involved and sort the situation out. By again exposing the reality that there are no heroes coming to save us, Planet of the Humans lights a necessarily incendiary fire under the competing factions of the environmental movement and exposes inauthentic environmental organizations for what they are. In doing so, Moore ignites renewed gusto for the difficult conversations we need to have about energy, efficiency and waste, albeit dishonestly.
So if you decide to watch Planet of the Humans, be forewarned that it is notoriously imprecise, employing specious reasoning, defeatist hyperbole and a slew of outright lies with the seeming intention of undermining the entire environmental movement, and possibly even encouraging people to kill themselves by propagating a false message about the hopelessness of all existence. Watch at your own risk and with your bullshit detector turned up to “Fox News”.