An Inconvenient Cult Following

By Joshua M. Bernstein

Illustration courtesy of Thomas Fuchs

It’s a dark january night in Durham, North Carolina, and the pulpit is empty at the Peace Covenant Church. Still, 30 churchgoers, physics professors, and housewives are gathered to hear an altogether different gospel: the impending climate-change apocalypse, as told by Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. “People left sobered but encouraged that we possess the means to alter our future,” says job-training director Karen Mortimer, a 61-year-old church member who took part in a peculiar phenomenon that is gaining strength.

One year after its theatrical release, An Inconvenient Truth has become an environmentalist’s popcorn-popping Rocky Horror Picture Show. Its November DVD release fueled a groundswell of screenings that culminated in a nationwide “See the Truth Movie Party,” sponsored by Gore and on December 16. The event featured nearly 2,000 simultaneous showings in all manners of venue, including homes, churches, bars, and museums. One such screening in downtown Miami’s Mitrani Art Building drew 35 people, from 20-something hipsters to married couples to a septuagenarian. “It allowed us to build a community and act locally,” says the screening’s cosponsor Rebecca Carter, 29, who runs a website devoted to eco-friendly living in Miami. Meanwhile, in Ohio, retired chemical engineer Jack Roesler, 67, joined 25 college students and other eco-minded folks for a viewing at a University of Toledo undergrad’s house. “I didn’t move; I was riveted,” says Roesler, who welcomed the chance to meet like-minded folks from different walks of life. “It was refreshing to be surrounded by people that care about the environment and want to discuss the issues.”

But MoveOn’s Truth binge was just the beginning. Viewings continue to proliferate in outside-the-multiplex venues like New York City’s Inwood Hill Nature Center, as well as Greenville Christian College in Brockville, Ontario. And Gore’s Climate Project is now training 1,000 Australians and Americans to travel their countries and give variations on his climate-change lecture. Now ordinary people like Mortimer, who started cooking vegetarian meals and turning down her thermostat after watching Truth, have started hosting home screenings. “As Al Gore said, there is a response in between denial and despair,” she says. “It is action.”

Issue 25

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