September 5th, 2020 by Jacek Fior
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. …” — A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
I’m at awe at how humanity doesn’t change much, and no matter what age it is, we seem to be in the same dichotomy of contradicting forces of good and evil, where both good and evil will have differing definitions depending on who you ask (you could be surprised to learn the source of all evil in Poland today is … the rainbow).
I hope, then, Charles Dickens won’t be offended in his well-deserved eternal rest that I have borrowed his title today to tell you about two movies — one you most probably have heard of, Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans (no link intentional) and one you most probably have never heard of and you should, that is Jonathan L. Ramsey’s It’s OK to Panic filmed in Poland and featuring a Polish climate expert (English subtitles available).
There is little more I can say on Michael Moore’s film other than I’m simply sorry he wasted the potential and scale of his name in documentary on such a bad piece. It has been widely criticized, and rightly so, and its claims have been debunked all over the internet, including on CleanTechnica, of course. You can read about it here and here.
I’m tempted to use a phrase I probably shouldn’t — SFW? (4th definition here if you are not familiar.) The film has over 9 million views on YouTube and plenty more elsewhere. It has given silly arguments to countless climate deniers to use for years. It has empowered all the e-mobility skeptics and renewable energy adversaries I have had to face and now will have to face in the future. The reviews and debunking will only be read within our cleantech bubble and we will all share the same sense of satisfaction that we have proven him wrong. SFW? The rich got richer (Michael), the misinformed got more misinformed (them), the climate-change-painfully-aware-and-anxious got more climate-change-painfully-aware-and-anxious (us). The fact the film mixes solid claims and arguments with total nonsense, outdated figures, and common misconceptions makes the whole debunking more difficult and I have found myself quite helpless a few times. A great summary of what’s wrong with Planet of the Humans is here if you need guns to shoot at other panelists.
Meanwhile, in the wild east … another film was released. It’s called It’s Okay to Panic. It wasn’t made to make money or for clickbait, nor was it made to ridicule one group or another. It was made to tell a story, an emotional and sentimental story of one man’s mission to educate about climate change, to share his knowledge on the threats we’re facing, to build a community around that idea. It is a story about Professor Szymon Malinowski. He is the founder and leader of the most popular and respected internet portal on climate science in Poland — Nauka o Klimacie. It’s only in Polish, so you must believe me it is pure gold. The section called Facts and Myths is an endless source of climate knowledge delivered in a concise, smart, and often entertaining way, and the real cherries on top are the comments under each article, sometimes hundreds of them, where the professor’s team answers the most ridiculous claims and arguments with unbelievable patience and skill.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying all of these kind words to earn any credit. Professor Malinowski doesn’t know I exist (I suppose), and if I was to dream of getting anything from him, that would be a chance to talk. Who knows? Maybe one day.
My goal, then, is obvious and clear — I want you all to see it and share it. It has 760,000 views. Don’t expect fireworks of Moore’s kind. It’s Okay to Panic unfolds slowly and lets you into the world of coal, smog, populist politicians (including one irresponsible president), and common misinformation (sounds like America, I know, but it’s about Poland).
The message delivered by Professor Malinowski can’t be clearer — we must all get to work or we are doomed. Yet, he is far from simply stating what’s right and expecting others to follow. The way Jonathan Ramsey portrays Malinowski’s road to climate awareness and his mission to educate about it differs from what we are used to in Leonardo DiCaprio’s or Al Gore’s productions (no intention to criticize those guys, of course). I feel those products are often burdened with the celebrity label, and to many viewers, their message is thus seen as nothing more than propaganda. Ramsey’s film focuses rather on where the professor came from, on his family background, on his professional career, on his everyday struggles today, and on what he fears about tomorrow. The portrait we receive is honest and pure. The narrative is very personal. And it should be. At the end of it all, climate change is about our future, about our children’s future, and not about a silly argument on which technology is “cheaper” or more “ours.”
I truly hope you will enjoy watching the movie. Dive, please, into Poland’s difficult past – life behind the Iron Curtain, the cult of coal, and the hardships of economic transformation from communism to capitalism, or its mutilated form. Share, please, my emotions of watching a man so devoted to the case that he simply can’t go by unheard. When I invited my wife to watch the movie with me (and she needs no convincing about climate issues), she was hesitant. She said, “Jacek, I know it all, and I have a book to read.” (She’s an addicted reader and book shopper.) That was two months ago, and she has thanked me for getting her to join and watch It’s Okay to Panic several times since then. You can thank me, too, later. It’s okay to thank.
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