An Inconvenient Despair

By Ben Bull
Published March 09, 2007

The Toronto Star's Peter Howell has panned the just released Peak Oil movie, "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash." Noting its depressing no-light at the end of the tunnel undercurrent, Howell concludes: "A movie this grim risks switching off the very minds it seeks to engage."

That's a shame, but it's not entirely surprising. After watching the End of Suburbia and The Corporation in the same week, my wife told me she was "going shopping for a new husband" because I was so depressed.

Similarly, I have many friends who refuse to watch An Inconvenient Truth because they "know it will be too depressing."

The challenge for environmentally concious movie makers is how to educate their audience and instruct them as well. If we cannot take any hope away with us from the theatre, then what's the point?

As Howell also notes, "There are actually people out there who are trying to solve this problem, although you'd never know it by watching A Crude Awakening."

It's a point we all should take note of.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By Barry (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2007 at 13:48:50

The solutions are out there. It's just that they're not the solutions that people want to hear. If anyone thinks that there is some kind of magic that will allow us to solve environmental destruction and resource depletion, while allowing us to continue business as usual without a huge sacrifice, they are going to be very disappointed.

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By Mike Bendzela (anonymous) | Posted March 09, 2007 at 18:40:40

It reminds me of the oft-quoted remark by Jung (who was mostly a crackpot, but here he's right on): "People can't take too much reality."

If the filmmakers honestly believe their view of the subject, then why should they alter it to be more palatable?

The makers of the American "Crude Awakening" provide cheap tricks and false endings to try to ameliorate people's pain.

Besides, it doesn't matter what any MOVIE says: it's too late to "fix" peak oil. it's gonna happen.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 09, 2007 at 19:09:57


I never advocated that the movie makers promote a peak oil 'fix'. We all know that's ridiculous.

What I am saying is that movie makers - or anyone communicating a serious message with serious consequences - has to consider the sensitivities of their audience, as well as the content and means of delivery of the message. We are being saturated with doom and gloom right now, and while no-one should blunt the edges of their messages, they should ensure that the message is delivered effectively. Telling it like it is does not always mean you are making your point effectively (for one thing, a review like Howell's is going to sure that I, for one, don't go to see it)

An example of effective delivery is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. One of the reasons this movie works - apart from the novelty of having an ex-VPresident starring in it - is because Gore uses humour and leaves us with a little hope. I don't believe he alters his message to make it more 'palatable' in order to make the documentary work.


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By PeakTO (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2007 at 09:17:03

I know the despair. The problem the moviemakers face is that there is no is a population problem at its root.

No one will address this problem anytime soon, so for the population as a whole it is game over in the next decades.

There may be hope at an individual level, in preparation, education and sacrafice.

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By dermot (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2007 at 15:01:55

I saw the comments from several reviewers that the movie was "too depressing".

For me this is proof of the near complete infantilisation of our society. Too bad the film-makers weren't living in Pompeii in 79CE. I doubt they'd have had much luck saving people with their "depressing" predictions.

Just how deluded does an adult have to be to ignore the calamities heading our way?

I've long wondered as to why so many people in 1930s Europe did nothing as the nazis rose to power. Now I know!

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted March 10, 2007 at 18:23:28


good points. But remember we are dealing with human nature here. If I know something is going to leave me feeling depressed I'm not going to subject myself to it (after all, if I want to be depressed, I'll go to work...)

One of the contrasts between today and 1930 (and 79AD for that matter) is that today we have almost TOO MUCH information. Perversely it seems that this abundance of opinion may be making some of us less inclined to pay attention to it...

I think the other point that Howell, and perhaps these other critics, are making is that much of the information presented in this movie is already known. While there may be some facts here and there that help to inform us the central theme that 'we're screwed' and 'it's all our fault' continues to be made over and over on this and other climate change related issues. This makes people jaded and more inclined to 'switch off' Ultimately, when looking at the movie - or any kind of commentary - we have to ask ourselves: Are we learning anything new here? Shouting the warnings is all well and good but if folks have heard them before they are not going to listen just because you are shouting them louder. You have to change the way you communicate.



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By Zeke (anonymous) | Posted March 10, 2007 at 20:38:47

I can hear it on the Titanic. "The ship is sinking" "Don't be so negative, it upsets people"

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