Hope and despair. Progress and regression. Change and tradition. These themes, and the conflict between these dichotomies, drove the message of United States former vice president Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, a documentary about the global warming and the environmental tragedy that continues to shape the world.
The University of Stirling Students’ Union screened An Inconvenient Sequel on Tuesday, October 10 in Macrobert Arts Centre, and held an accompanying panel discussion to celebrate Global Climate Change week. Union President Astrid Smallenbroek and Stirling Environmental Development Coordinator Matthew Woodthorpe led the discussion, and prompted students and viewers to consider the messages in the film and discuss how to increase sustainable practices on campus.
Students proposed sustainability efforts, such as reducing disposable cutlery, adding more vegan options on campus and increasing recycling incentives.
Smallenbroek said the conversation after the film inspired her and proved that sustainability is an important issue to the campus community.
She said: “I think it was really, really great; just seeing how many people turned up and how many people are engaged in the debate as well.”
“It’s a lot more people than I expected, but it’s really great to see.”
Just weeks after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit the United States, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and days before Ophelia plowed into the coast of Northern Ireland, the message of the film and the images of natural destruction that came through the screen in An Inconvenient Sequel offered an increased sense of urgency.
Gore recognized that he and other environmental activists contend with businesses and industries more concerned with income than the environment, and he understands that political competitiveness may also hinder his efforts.
At one point in the film, Gore acknowledged to viewers that “in order to fix the environmental crisis, we have to fix the democracy crisis,” and he demonstrated his concern about the crisis through various documentary footage and audio clips of President Donald Trump stating things such as the fact he is “not a believer in global warming.”
Gore’s message in An Inconvenient Sequel tangs of nostalgia, as the former US vice president reflected on his campaigning days, his efforts in his first film An Inconvenient Truth and his work to help pass the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 before Trump pulled out for the treaty in June.
Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor of Paris and one of the politicians quoted in the film, agreed with Gore about the relationship between politics and global warming, and she pushed for climate change as a way to increase diplomacy and mutual understanding across borders.
“The link between climate change and world peace is clear,” she said in the film. “Despite the positive messaging from other countries around the world, Gore still said he considers the slow pace of climate control and the lack of internationally support for sustainability to be a “personal failure.”
But, at least on the campus of the University of Stirling, efforts to prevent a worsening environmental crisis develop more sustainable practices and are already in motion.
Woodthorpe works on environmental and sustainability efforts through the The Green and Blue Space on campus, and he creates environmentally-based activities – such as the film screening – on campus to raise awareness of global warming and create plans that promote sustainability.
Woodthorpe said he was encouraged by the number of attendees at the event, given that he had no expectations coming into the event, and he appreciates the degree to which the university values student voice.
He said: “We do the work that we can do, that what we are doing. There is work that still needs to be done, so that’s frustrating, but as all individuals, it’s what we can do in our community,”
“We are making real change, seeing 20% CO2 reduction on campus, and the university gives a shout about that. And that’s staff members, that’s investors; we all have a part in that, so let’s keep going.”
Scotland, as a whole, earned recognition during An Inconvenient Sequel, when the film mentioned that Scotland can get 100 percent of its energy from wind, a statistic that drew a cheer from the crowd in the intimate theatre.
VP Communities Jamie Grant later clarified this statistic came from a study which showed that on one specific day in 2016, all of Scotland’s energy needs could have been met with wind power, but the problem comes in the form of energy capture.
“We don’t have the battery infrastructure and, as was alluded to, we don’t have the energy infrastructure to capture that energy and store it the way it is needed,” Grant said.
Grant, who studied politics as an undergraduate, claimed to be a “secret green [party member],” because he sees the benefits of Scotland’s sustainability efforts and notes that the country serves as the wind capital of all of Europe.
Both Grant and Smallenbroek have prioritized and emphasized sustainability efforts on campus in their roles with the Union, and Smallenbroek said she hopes to continue to make small changes around campus – such as adding more water fountains – that can continue to make Stirling more sustainable. She said she also wants to continue to support Woodthorpe and his work as the environmental developmental coordinator
“He knows what he’s doing, he’s kind of the expert, so really supporting him and his work and getting that kind of highlighted within the senior management in the university,” Smallenbroek said.
And, if nothing else, the screening of An Inconvenient Sequel showed how work like Woodthorpe’s can make a significant different at Stirling, in Scotland and around the world.