Documentarians encourage climate of debate

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010

Irish documentary film makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer are battling Malaria, DDT, polar bears, climate change, Green Peace and Al Gore, just to name a few references in their latest film "Not Evil Just Wrong."

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Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

The feature-length production, released Oct. 18, examines how extreme environmentalism has "preserved poverty" and lead to mass hysteria connected with global warming.

The husband and wife team, both journalists by trade, presented clips from their film at Centennial Hall Wednesday night and at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. The two events were presented by the chamber and Juneau's First Things First Foundation.

"The only problem now is the whole world is into global warming and nothing else," McElhinney said. "Everything that went before is being replaced by this one thing. What we should do with the money we have is solve things we can solve."

She said environmental groups too often ignore the tragedies that befall humans.

"Humans are animals too. ... Millions of children are dying of Malaria each year before their fifth birthday."

The couples current film was inspired by one of their earlier films, "Mine Your Own Business." McElhinney and McAleer said they traveled to Rosia Montana, Transylvania, to investigate a gold mining operation they believed to be sucking the life out of a small community. What they discovered was the opposite, and that the locals were heavily in favor of the mine and the jobs it would bring. That was in 2007, and since litigation has stalled any progress on the mine, believed to contain one the largest gold deposits in Europe.

That encounter with environmental extremism and the mass hysteria generated from former Vice President Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth," was the genesis of "Not Evil Just Wrong." McElhinney and McAleer said Gore's film was biased, and what they strived for was balance.

"We just finished our mining movie and were interested in how one idea could span the globe," McElhinney said. "People ... have only heard one side of the story. They are hungry for the truth and for balance, and they haven't had it."

Their tour has included numerous locations throughout the world and has been greeted enthusiastically by some, and with hate mail and death threats from others.

An official with the environmental group OCEANA, a Juneau Chamber of Commerce member, said the film was an "oversimplified attempt to ... demonize environmentalists."

"... It relied heavily on selective presentation of the facts to make that case," OCEANA Pacific Science Director Jeff Short said, during the Q&A portion of the luncheon.

Short attended both presentations and encouraged an open debate.

"The salient points that really jumped out is that they spent a lot of time talking about environmentalists' responsibility for DDT being banned world wide, ... resulting in the deaths of millions of children in Africa," he said. "That is just a very selective and highly over-simplified summary of what actually happened. "Their attempt to paint environmentalists as misguided, wrong-headed do-gooders that never get the science right and leads us into economic debacles over and over again is just a really misleading representation of the facts."

OCEANA Arctic Project Manager Chris Krenz said it was "disappointing the Chamber of Commerce is promoting this film" in Juneau.

"Alaska is one of the places where climate change and ocean acidification is predicted to have a very large impact, and it is already having a very large impact," he said. "It would be better to address these issues and get more involved in learning about climate change rather than spending time trying to discredit the science."

McElhinney and McAleer said they'd like for all school-aged children to be able to watch their film and "An Inconvenient Truth."

We think children should see not just one truth. We want to get this into every school in America, side-by-side with "An Inconvenient Truth," McElhinney said. "We don't want to ban anything. I think its a challenge, but its a challenge worth trying. We are going to give our movie free to every school in the United States of America. We are actually willing to do that, with the proviso that they use it or show it, keeping the climate of debate alive."

Juneau School District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich attended Thursday's luncheon, and said he'd be interested in seeing the movie.

"It would be a matter of how might that movie be presented so that we do in fact have balance, which is what they are calling for," he said. "Because science is not as exact as we sometimes suggest, it would be helpful if the kids could completely understand what the scientific questions are. If showing this movie and other movies about the same issues with a different perspective would give the kids a context in which they could do their own scientific research, we'll try and get our hands on a copy of the video and take a look at it and show it to our science teachers."

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