Al Gore’s book and Academy award-winning documentary have made global climate change the “it” topic.

“An Inconvenient Truth” shows how humans have affected the earth by their presence and mismanagement of earth’s resources. Its production values alone make it worth watching because it is little more than a glorified PowerPoint presentation. The film’s genius lies in its ability to seize the day with regard to social consciousness.

I’m not a fan because I think Gore spends too much time whining about the 2000 presidential election and blaming the Republicans to be really effective in getting his point across.

The link Gore attempts to make between Hurricane Katrina and global climate change may be a stretch. At least that’s what a friend of mine who does pollution modeling for the state of North Carolina thinks. She has a degree in atmospheric science and worked as a TV meteorologist.

She said Gore’s connection is weak, at best. His alarmist attitude in the film could damage the credibility of serious data that show a connection between the influence of humans and climate change. She said environmental laws are having a positive effect. While human population continues to rise, emissions continue to fall.

I recently read that the earth has more trees now than 100 years ago. The turn of the last century marked a time of great deforestation in the United States. In central West Virginia, timbering reduced virgin forests to rock piles. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen the photos myself.

It’s disingenuous to think human activity doesn’t affect the environment. Each person has a part in protecting the earth we call home. But few individuals can make the environmental mark that corporations can. Few individuals can shape public policy the way corporations can.

If you want to do one better than Gore’s film, I recommend “The Corporation,” a lesser-known 2003 documentary produced by Joel Bakan, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott.

“The Corporation” suggests we’re not going to see any great changes in the public or public policy so long as conglomerates control the world politically and financially.

The root of that control goes back to an insignificant U.S. Supreme Court case that granted human status to business entities. Yes, that’s right. In the eyes of the law, corporations are guaranteed the same civil rights as human beings.

I’d never heard of the case until I attended a constitutional law seminar. After I watched “The Corporation,” it all made sense.

From 1890 to 1910, the U.S. Supreme Court heard 307 cases involving the 14th Amendment, which was ratified to provide equal rights and equal opportunities to black people freed during the Civil War.

Of those 307 cases, 288 were filed on behalf of corporations and 19 were filed on behalf of black people, said Mary Zepernick from the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. She appeared in “The Corporation.”

The problem, as corporate governance adviser Robert Monks told the filmmakers, is that corporations have no moral conscience or physical body. The corporation is concerned only with making money. The government has difficulty making corporations “act right” if they don’t respond as human beings.

The film showed the efforts of Arcata, Calif., to enforce responsible corporate behavior in the community through revocation of their charters allowing them to incorporate. Another community was attempting to prevent any new franchises from opening there via ordinance.

West Virginia is a state that bears the wounds of corporations who have run over her and her people. Workers’ rights, investing in communities’ futures and environmental protection are issues tracked back to how corporations are allowed to operate. The Sago mine disaster is evidence of this.

It falls to the people to persuade corporate leaders that acting in the best interest of people and the earth is in their economic best interests. Unless and until the people demand it, they won’t get it.

The film is not anti-business. It showcases the efforts of Interface CEO Ray Anderson to erase the environmental footprint created by his carpet manufacturing company, the world’s largest.

The film shows it can be done.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© Nerissa Young 2007

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