Out of Balance (2007)

the world is going to hell. you can stop reading now – you already know it.

“out of balance: exxonmobil’s impact on climate change” provides 60 minutes of bad news, none of it new news. unless, that is, you yourself don’t believe that the world is going to hell or are somehow not aware otherwise of the fact that it is, in which case you’re wasting your time reading this and you won’t be sitting through this movie either, unless you’re too drunk or lazy to change the channel, in which case it will have no more effect on you than the shopping channel does, or, no, less.

why was this film made? perhaps the director received a grant. also, existentially speaking, before the end of the world we’ll want a library of cassandra-like warnings like this on dvd, which everyone ignores until it’s too late (now, in other words). also, every rhinoceros needs an ox-pecker on its back.

who was this film made for? in it, a crowd of sweet-tempered rational folks explain why we’re up to our ears in shit. every grammar school kid already knows this, in the same way that kids in the fifties were prepared, if they ever stopped to think about it, for that bright flash of light that might happen any goddamn minute, reducing kid, family, and elementary school to ashes that would glow green in the moonlight.

we all know we’re going to die but we don’t stop living. mostly we just don’t talk about it. some of us go to church or temple or the mosque once a week to be reminded of the fact, and to be reminded also perhaps that the world is, yes, going to hell, and that we also, not just the government and big business and all those other countries out there, are to blame, but holy day services don’t take an inordinate amount of time and can be tuned out in the same way that movies like this one can. granted, every once in a while the notion of death and personal extinction might hit you, perhaps in the dead of night, but hang on and it passes. the world might be going to hell but it probably won’t get there today. i myself don’t bother listening to the preacher telling me that i’m going to die and i don’t pay any more attention than i have to to the world’s downward environmental spiral either. i haven’t seen the al gore film or any other such documentary and i wouldn’t have seen this one if not for being a spout maven. i look away from pictures of oil-soaked birds. the planet is screwed and i could stop consuming but that wouldn’t help much, so i’m ignoring the whole thing as much as possible.

and by the way, out of balance? what’s out of balance? if you piss in a muddy puddle with an oil slick on it, is the puddle now out of balance?

exxon mobil is the largest corporation in the world. a corporation isn’t a person, it’s a thing. in this case it is a huge, godless, relentless, remorseless, unstoppable, soulless, destructive thing that along with your own piddly little contribution will destroy the planet, unless the nukes start flying or a manufactured mutant pathogen kills us all before it can.

the film introduces us to a former exxon ceo who received 400 million when he retired. lee raymond, a big fat ugly pretentious guy you want to paste in the face the second you see him, him blathering some patent nonsense that amounts to his declaration that whatever you happen to think, he and his kind rule the earth, or what’s left of it. corporations might be things, but they’re infested things, crawling with fat ugly humans feeding off the crumbs of corporate profit. if there were any justice in the world, which of course there isn’t, this guy would end up down in the deepest basement of hell.

and ditto for the clean-cut old bastard who replaced him.

or am i being too harsh here?


not that i’m doing anything to change the situation. will watching another hour on the subject make any difference? you think? i recycle. i vote democratic. i stick pins in my president bush potato head. i drive a prius. but oops, i consume just as much as everyone else in this country. i don’t take the train. my 401k can’t go down the drain just to save the planet. the years pass and the world goes downhill, but so do i and i’ll hit the wall before the world does. i hope. but of course that leaves the kids and their kids holding the bag.

after raymond the planet-killer, “out of balance” presents the valdez spill – the devastation and botched cleanup and the coverup and the fact that the company to this day has escaped any significant consequences, financial or otherwise, pertaining to its blame. 200 billion in profits since the spill. exxon, catering to the nazis back in the day, working with any and every brutal dictator that proves useful (sort of like the u.s.). this is one of the companies that is supposed to lead us to glory city after the libertarians turn out the government and get rid of regulation? instead of voting, why don’t we just go shoot ourselves? but wait. let me take a second to tip my hat to our libertarian brothers, who would reduce the size of government because the government just makes things worse. boys, don’t bother with the bush administration. with regard to climate change and any sort of rational meaningful intelligent responsible controls over anything that exxon does, no need to worry about the government messing it up, because the government hasn’t done squat, and won’t. you’ve got your way. you need not concern yourselves. just relax and let big business pillage the world unfettered. they’ll do it a lot more quickly and efficiently than any government ever could.

but i digress. a note to the director: please don’t throw hurricane footage up there on the screen and blame the storm on global warming. folks like to watch hurricane footage. hurricanes are old friends. they have names. they’re fun. they’re comfortable. they can’t happen here. plus, your filmclips use boring overused footage that we’ve seen over and over ever since we first turned on our tv. hurricanes are something that happen down south and provide annual disaster entertainment in the news timeslot, along with the climax to the occasional drama. they don’t work as any sort of warning. also leave out the oil spills. in fact, leave out footage of every disaster that we’ve ever seen before. and skip the melting glacier spots. and the deserts just sitting there, hot and dry. you can’t stop murder by showing the citizenry episodes of the sopranos. the only way to use a burning house on film as a warning is to go over to the viewer’s home, burn it down, film the smoking remains, and show THAT to the homeowner. just a thought. horrific images work in the context of sad hindsight, not as warnings.

and regarding the end of the world, did i mention that jesus christ will arrive when least expected? to me that would be this evening, but my fundamentalist friends tell me that whenever it may be, there will need to be a planet with humans on it here to receive him, so climate change can only get so bad and no worse. whew.

finally, a special shout-out to those who point out that this documentary does not present exxon’s side of the story. hey, even the bible lets satan get in a word or two. you watch this movie and hear climate scientists, glacier specialists, writers, UN officials, and tree huggers explain to you how and why the world is going to hell – but NO i repeat NO dissenting opinions are presented! the filmmakers somehow forgot to let crazy uncle charley out of the attic. they somehow didn’t seek out that one nutty scientist who still believes that it was warmer a hundred years ago than it is today. that it’s warmer now but not our fault. that it’s our fault but there isn’t anything we can do about it. just don’t make me give up my car and take a bus for christ’s sake! i’ll do anything you ask! don’t make me turn off my old grandma’s nightlight so she stumbles and falls trying to go to the bathroom in the dark. don’t make me turn down the thermostat and freeze my children to death. yes, it’s getting warmer but what’s wrong with that? i won’t have to go to florida for my vacation. it’s got hotter and colder ever since the planet formed. sure it’s happening this time in ten years instead of a hundred thousand but so what? evolution will take care of it. it’s only one degree. less than one degree. it’s only six inches more of sea water. hurricanes were down this year. so forth. no dissenting opinions presented in this movie! my god! what are we going to do? it’s not fair! exxon deserves it say, its spin, its junk science, its whatever. just because i’d be crazy to believe anything anybody from that company tells me, on principle, doesn’t mean a fair and balanced documentary can’t throw in some bullcrap, right? and intelligent design, what about that? and let’s hear from RJR while we’re at it. you know what? exxon could tear this little film apart. exxon and the american petroleum institute could flatten this film. exxon could present data, scientists, public relations experts, your momma and daddy and your chosen man of god, and deny and disprove every fact in this movie and all the facts that didn’t make it into this movie as well. they probably already have. hang on. let me search “exxon” in youtube. 428 hits. scrolling and scanning. haven’t come to anything pro-exxon yet. gratifying! looks like “out of balance” has a lot of company. the world is still going to hell but at least i can watch 428 short blasts at one of the companies doing the damage while it happens. to tell you the truth, this film is so even-tempered that i was sort of hoping that the oil company would produce a “Thanks for Smoking” spokesman or two, or the mad scientist they keep locked up in the cellar. and by the way, what does the pope have to say about all this?

you can’t turn around anymore without stumbling over yet another environmental horror story. all the hemlocks on the east coast are dying (new yorker, dec. 10). no new redtails survived in jackson hole because the horseflies hatched early and killed all the nestlings. san francisco oil spill: bayside parks still closed; birds still dead; nobody to blame. dead birds? west nile virus. oil spill in korea. the curves used to go up and down; now they just go up; co2, methane, temperature, all in sync. so forth. the populace relying on technology to save us without impacting our patterns of consumption. will there be a catastrophic series of events, as in the classic sf book Timescape by Gregory Benford, or lesser, repeated ecological insults that finally result in the collapse of civilization as we know it? i just saw a racoon crawl out of a gutter drain. any sign of wildlife is a good thing. google “plastic in the ocean” and see what you get. the world’s largest landfill. the world’s largest garbage dump. a mass of floating garbage larger than a state, out there on the way to hawaii. x thousand bits of plastic for every cubic foot of ocean water. you want out of balance? how about “Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance.”

in the year 2000 we needed to elect a leader who could save us. oh well.

final optimistic thought: maybe the next 9/11 will be an environmental, rather than terrorist, disaster, so that when the government goes fascist again in response, it will be in the cause of saving the planet.

“out of balance: ExxonMobil’s Impact on Climate Change” hasn’t found it’s way into imdb yet. For more information about “Out of Balance,” visit the film’s website at http://www.worldoutofbalance.org. For more information on Joe Public Films, visit http://www.joepublicfilms.com. Contact Joe Public Films at joepublicfilms [at] yahoo.com.