DiCaprio’s “11th Hour” v. Greenpeace


by Susan
I’m taking this as a good sign, that "environmentalism"is finally mainstream enough for people within its11thhour_med vast umbrella to publicly disagree.  So we nature-lovers now have to look at people’s facts, not the green flags they’re waving, to determine who’s right and who’s wrong.  Or both, or neither.

In this op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore takes issue with the anti-forestry message in the new climate change movie "11th Hour," which is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.  Moore calls it "another example of anti-forestry scare tactics" and reminds us that old-growth forests sequester substantially less carbon than stands of young, growing trees.  He writes that the movie should have encouraged the growth of more trees and the use of more wood, which would mean less use of concrete, steel and plastic, all heavy carbon-emitters in their production.

Now I’ve heard from my urban forestry friends that they fight this battle all the time.  People want to hang onto their large but old and sickly trees, while arborists want them replaced.  "Gotta keep the urban canopy young!" is the rallying cry of one arborist who recently retired from the fray.  Committed treehuggers make formidable opponents, he told me.  I learned as much myself when, at his urging, I supported the relaxation of my town’s tree laws, which were protecting not just sick and dangerous trees but junk specimens like Bradford pears and mulberries.  For speaking out I was subjected to an angry, harsh email campaign and intimidating glares while I was testifying (with shaking knees) before the City Council.  Yikes!

On the other hand, I agree with Ecorazzi’s assertion in this story that Moore went too far when he wrote that 11th Hour is a "clear reminder for us to put the science before the Hollywood hype," which sounds like the Hollywood-bating we usually hear from Fox News.  So Leo, George, Barbra, Bono – keep it up, and thanks for having a brain and not being afraid to put it to good purpose.

But oh, by the way, I saw the movie and can’t really recommend it.  Unless you’re totally out of it and need to be SHOCKED with horrible images and really, really bad news, why put yourself through it?  I saw it with Kathy Jentz so Kathy, what say you? 

If you’re a global-warming denier, though, by all means go see it.


  1. I don’t know enough on the old vs young tree issue to comment on that aspect – will definitely be reading up on that and quizing the experts I meet at GreenFestival DC next month.
    As far as the film goes, I have to say I really WANTED To like this, but found it disappointing overall. Most of it is “preaching to the choir” and quite pedantic. I felt like I was being repeatedly lectured about things I was already very much aware of – and that gets tedious. I could see this film being good in a middle school or high school classroom setting to sparl discussion. Certainly Leonardo DeCaprio being in it will help hold the yout attention span. I did like the last third of movie whichever began to offer new solutions and out of the box thinking for some of these problems, I would much rather have heard a LOT more from people like Bill McDonough and Betsy Taylor and that been the bulk of the film, after a short “why we need to do it” intro. Maybe the next enviro -filmmaker which jump on that. Despite this encouraging section of the film, I left the theater depressed — the overall mood and mesaage of the film is a real downer and not very optimistic. I think the title gives you that warning at least they are not misleading anyone. I just don’t see many people shelling out $10 to be lectured for 90 minutes – even if it is by a young, good looking movie star.

  2. Well, I just want to say this about that: I LOVE mulberries. Some of my most favorite childhood memories are of eating mulberries off the sidewalks in Indiana, and as a young adult, doing the same thing in the back yard of the rented house I lived in with my daughter. And Bradford pears are beautiful. I’m sorry if they’re not cool, but they’re so pretty in the spring. One woman’s “trash” (tree) is another woman’s treasure!

  3. My problem with Patrick Moore’s polemic is that he completely neglects the habitat aspect of old growth forests. He sees trees merely as a commodity (to be used for furniture or to absorb carbon). I hate to say it, but, he just can’t see the forest for the trees.

  4. I agree with Ann. Old growth forests support biodiversity in magical ways that we have only recently begun to understand. Tree farms have their uses, but comparably few.

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