The future of renewable energy is in projects built with quality materials and controlled by communities, not big energy corporations — just one of the ways ‘Planet of the Humans’ misses the mark

A new Jeff Gibbs film presented by legendary filmmaker Michael Moore is making waves on the internet.

It’s called Planet of the Humans, and its premise is that “We humans are poised to fall from an unimaginable height.” Not because of one thing alone, but because there are 7 billion of us, and we have irrevocably altered Earth’s ecosystems. The film wants you to believe that renewable energy won’t solve the climate crisis, but offers no solutions other than to conclude that the problem is not carbon — it’s us.

Understandably, the film is directing a lot of questions to our inbox, so we’re giving it a review.

Planet of the Humans is hard-hitting, and often hard to watch. If you are vulnerable emotionally at this moment, save it for a day when you are feeling strong.

Two fatal flaws

First, the film takes a nasty swing at the environmental establishment. In doing so, it references Dogwood Alliance, a North Carolina based advocacy organization with no relation to us besides having a similar name.

Second, the film uses outdated and inaccurate information to undermine the case for renewable energy — an industry that has changed beyond recognition in the past decade — and embraces tired climate-denialist stereotypes that belong in the past. For anyone who has come away feeling depressed about renewables, we heartily recommend reading this epic takedown of all the ways the film mis-represents wind and solar — which makes it abundantly clear that these projects have far lower net emissions than fossil fuels. Trust us, you’ll feel better.

Taking aim at greenwash

It does accurately call B.S. on mega-corps and high profile institutions claiming the title of renewable energy champion after simply switching one solid fuel for another. Controlled by the same people backing other extractivist endeavours, the biomass industry is rapidly liquidating forests to feed boilers in steam-turbine power plants. The film also aims tough questions at the green campaigns funded by fossil fuel corporations.

Dogwood is proud to be predominantly supported by individual British Columbians. Our campaigns are people-powered, and we don’t take money from extractivist corporations. We’re believers in Local Power — decentralized, renewable energy that benefits communities, not Big Energy. We see projects built with quality materials and controlled by communities as part of the solution. Unfortunately, those aren’t featured in Planet of Humans, which cherry picks projects and relies on biased commentators to make its case.

The straight goods

We agree that we need to face where industrial capitalism has brought us. We know the time to bend the curve is now. Our job is to demonstrate how to do that in B.C. For Dogwood, that means electrifying everything we can to help get off fossil fuels, supporting Indigenous communities fighting for their right to build and control their own energy projects, and buying ourselves time to make deeper shifts. As COVID-19 has shown us, cleaner air and water is possible, and we can live with less.

Yes, renewable energy is not a panacea, and the environmental movement hasn’t always got it right. Undoubtedly, we in the G20 are using and emitting more than our share. However, telling millions of viewers that renewable energy is a scam also helps those profiting from the status quo keep things the way they are.

We’re giving this one a thumb’s down. If filmmakers want to contribute to a better future, the place to start isn’t by tearing down the hard, contradictory, messy work of building one.