How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change Josh Fox
Published Jan 25, 2016It's baffling, sure, but climate change is still one of the rigidly divisive topics of our time. Intentionally ignoring scientific studies, an oil company executive will likely turn beat red if you bring up global warming, rising sea levels or their carbon footprint. To get anything done in the great environmental debate, one must approach these conversations with a level head, an arsenal of facts and a great deal of patience. Unfortunately, Gasland director Josh Fox's muddled latest feels like a step in the wrong direction.
There's no denying that Fox means well, but even the title of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change should serve as a warning sign — this is a self-indulgent, messy and overly long piece of work.
The film opens with Fox dancing to the Beatles in his apartment, celebrating the fact that his small community successfully fought off an oil company from fracking in their beloved Delaware River. Ostensibly, that's what this film is about — small victories.
Before he gets to anymore of those, however, Fox methodically explains how it's too late to stop climate change from ravaging the world. It's the most pointed and logical part of the movie — no matter what we do, Fox says, the earth will definitely warm by another two to three degrees Celsius, and the rising sea levels will destroy most major cities as we know them. Based on his graphs, it looks like the coastal metropolises will become Waterworld while the mainland centres turn into Mad Max. One otherwise dry scientist explained that all of the earth's current conditions can be likened to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. We're completely and utterly fucked.
It's a daring way to set up a documentary, and the film's title becomes interesting for a moment. In the face of total ruin, what are the things that climate change can't destroy? Instead of exploring them in an organized fashion, Fox uses this idea to travel around the world and demonstrate loose concepts like "courage," "innovation" and "resilience." Those serve as titles for sections along with weirdly phrased headings like "democracy dances."
His point, it seems, is that the fight against climate change has brought out the best in people. But the way it's presented feels so hopelessly futile after we've been told that we've already lost the war. Sure, the Samoan protestors stave off one coal ship on one day, and their chanting is empowering, but why does that matter when we've already been told their communities are doomed regardless?
To his credit, Fox is a lovable little man with a sharp wit, an adorable giggle and a winning Bill Murray drawl, but as the movie drags on it begins to feel like he likes hamming it up onscreen a little too much. There are half-poignant points about capitalism to be made throughout, but they're immediately deflated by shots of Fox playing banjo in exotic places or Michael Moore-like security guard antagonism.
As the film finally closes with shots of teen ballerinas dancing on the New York beach that was once ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, it becomes clear that this film has no rhetorical value: show it to an oil tycoon, and he'll likely drill you in the face. Instead, How to... belongs to the Bono school of performance disguised as activism. (HBO Films)