It's time to face facts—we're all royally screwed. For all the tireless work of celebrities (Al Gore, Laurie David, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, etc.), it's going to take an environmental disaster of biblical proportions to change our wasteful ways. And by then? It'll be too late.
I suppose that's not the message I was supposed to take away from The 11th Hour, Leonardo DiCaprio's foray into Important Documentary Filmmaking. As producer and narrator, DiCaprio—along with a great cast of experts—attempts to fill viewers with the hope that, if we all just work together, we can stop global warming, keep poisonous chemicals out of the oceans, etc.
To that end, the last third of the film (after two-thirds' worth of dire warnings) dives into all of the exciting and hopeful new technologies that will wean us off of fossil fuels and reduce our environmental "footprint" by 90 percent. It's a great, fantastic time to be an architect, or designer, or urban planner, or engineer, because those fields will get to reshape the way we humans interact with our environment.
That's the message I'm pretty sure I was supposed to leave the theater with. And, to be fair, that's the message that reverberated in my head for a couple of hours—until my inner pessimist took over. The 11th Hour's insistence that daring scientists and emerging technologies will solve our environmental problems could have a very negative effect: It takes the responsibility for change away from us everyday schmoes, the very people to blame for the planet's problems.
If we really are going to halt and reverse our species' post-Industrial Revolution damage to the planet (and save our asses), it's going to take a full-scale shift in the way we live our lives. That means scaling back our dependency on modern conveniences, like cars and prepackaged, processed foods. And I have exactly zero hope that fat, lazy Americans will give up their comforts in order to keep Homo sapiens on the planet a little longer.
Which brings us back to the first two-thirds of the film, in which scientists explain that, while the earth is going to survive just fine in some (probably) unrecognizable form, we're racing toward a massive extinction that will most definitely include us. All the celebrity documentarians in all of Hollywood won't change that.
All that said—and if you can get past DiCaprio's terrible voiceovers and infomercial-esque screen time—The 11th Hour should jolt you out of a slumber and maybe get you to think about riding a bike instead of a car. Trouble is, it might be too little, too late.