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Sennett: An inconvenient recruit

September 26, 2018

I was in the fifth grade when Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) filled the atmosphere with political and scientific debate. The topic was global climate change, and the reception was contentious.

 

My understanding of “global warming” was something close to zero at the time when my then-art teacher showed the controversial documentary to my elementary school class.

 

I may not have understood the science behind Gore’s plea, but even as a child, I could sense the political weight his name carried.

 

Only a day after my art teacher showed my class “An Inconvenient Truth,” he was forced by the school to apologize.

 

But what my school had really forced him to do was cease discussing scientific fact with a younger generation—a generation the world would soon depend on to fix the problems instilled by the previous ones.

 

After that class, I do not recall openly discussing climate change in a formal classroom setting until high school.

 

Why did it take so long for me to learn about conscientious environmental discussion-making in school? The reason could arguably be political.

 

Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign largely centered around climate change awareness which, for Americans, inherently linked global warming with the Democratic party.

 

Schools had to step carefully around certain political topics, even if those topics were factually based and extremely important, so as not to offend Republican parents.

 

It was ironic for me when my current school, UT, decided to host a screening of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (2017), Gore’s follow-up to the infamous 2006 documentary.

 

This new film follows Gore as he tours the world with updated information on what climate change threatens.

 

Like in the first documentary, Gore often sensationalizes global warming, focusing on isolated, catastrophic events rather than the larger trend that faces the planet.

 

Gore’s cause is just, but his persuasion techniques detract from the actual issue, only dividing our country further on a problem that long needs positing beyond simply acceptance.

 

After the screening, a panel of environmental experts, teachers and even a filmmaker involved with the making of the new documentary (post-production supervisor Mike Goodier) fervently discussed climate change and its unfortunate political entanglement.

 

It seems that this university does—albeit infrequently—provide outlets for debate and discussion on important issues.

 

There was just one problem with this event: almost nobody showed up—well, not many students at least.

 

I noticed a few faculty members and people from the local community, but other than this limited assemblage, hardly any university students took advantage of the discussion.

 

I cannot help but wonder if Gore’s attachment to the topic causes many who take this issue seriously to ignore the “Inconvenient Truth” series—especially people my age who grew up always conflating the science of climate change with politics.

 

Did the lack of climate change discussion in grade school cause my generation to grow up apathetic to the issue at large?

 

Was the ultimate problem poor marketing, political dismissal or generational indifference? Perhaps students were just too busy studying! But I find all this hard to believe.

 

This is not the first time I have attended a UT event with poor student turnout. It seems like anything sponsored by the university—outside of sports—is an inconvenience for students.

 

And yet, we are the ones who complain when the school lacks in opportunities.

 

I do not want to make a broad assumption that everyone in my generation is lazy, makes the same types of decisions, has the same educational history or has the same relationship with school.

 

Firstly, I do not think we are lazy, and secondly, such generalizations are very misleading.

 

I do wish to suggest that there is a serious problem with student involvement at this school, and there must be a causal relationship between the lack of student involvement and the lack of university events.

 

Ask yourself: How often did you attend a humanities event last semester?

 

We can help ourselves by actively attending discussion-based events, like the screening last weekend, as often as we can.

 

Make it a priority—go to one humanities event each month so we can send a message to the university. We value the expression of ideas!

 

Involvement is not always convenient, but it is available if we wish for it to be.

 

Evan Sennett is a fourth-year student double majoring in film and English with a concentration in literature. 

 

 

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