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An Inconvenient Truth

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Jun 13, 2006
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Companion books to TV or movie "events" of a scientific slant are often big, splashy productions in their own right: look at Carl Sagan’s book for Cosmos, or the suitably oversized, colorful coffee-table analogue to Walking With Dinosaurs. Sometimes, the book will actually be more modest -- and more informative -- than the TV or theatrical equivalent, as with Spencer Wells’ Journey of Man. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth falls in between, though it tends toward the splashier side of the spectrum.

Essentially an oversized paperback rendition of Gore’s traveling slide-show presentation on the risks and realities of global warming, the book boasts charts, maps, photos, diagrams, and large fonts that are the visual equivalent of the public speaking adage to talk at a fifth grade level for maximum success. But it all works a treat: as in the movie, Gore’s book handily whittles complex scientific concepts into bite-sized morsels that will enlighten the lay reader, without scaring anybody off on technical grounds. That’s not to say the book is not scary: it is, for the same reasons the movie is scary. Namely: the sky, rather than falling, is filling up with compounds that act to trap solar radiation: we face rising seas, a new ice age in Europe, increased desertification, and hugely destructive storms.

Gore knows his stuff, and the hi-tech satellite images, straightforward assessment of relevant chemical reactions, and diagrammatically streamlined graphics illustrating weather systems serve to elucidate the problem of global warming and dispel the lazy bromides promoted by skeptics. As it was in the film, so it remains in the book: composite images of planet Earth give the reader a fresh perspective from which to appreciate that our world is more fragile than we might have believed; panoramic photos of canyons and deserts contrast with aerial views of cities, farms, and strip-mining operations; computer-enhanced imagery provides striking visuals for projected flooding in some of the world’s most populous regions, including California and Florida.

Gore’s personal reflections as presented in the documentary remain intact here, and are expanded to include more of his family history, reflections on his career path, and his appreciation for natural settings. It is in these latter passages that An Inconvenient Truth finds its soul and balances out the intellectual exercise of boiling down the science to a point of bare-bones comprehensibility. We see Al Gore as a husband and father, and as a man -- that is to say, an inhabitant of the planet who ultimately draws his sustenance, as do we all, from the natural setting. This view of Gore as a resident of Earth, rather than as a politician or an eco-educator, give the book (as they gave the film) a sense of connection to his passion for preserving the planet and, via that connection, an authentic sense of kinship with what Carl Sagan dubbed our "pale blue dot."

by Al Gore

Publisher: Rodale Books. Produced By: Melcher Media. Publication Date: June 9, 2006. Pages: 323. Price: $21.95. Format: Oversized Softcover Original. ISBN-13: 978-1-59486-567-1

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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