In his efficient, cogently argued, and visually compelling documentary “Time to Choose,” Charles Ferguson adds at least one more inconvenient truth to those compiled in Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim’s 2006 documentary about climate change. Who knew that palm oil had such a deleterious effect on the environment, not to mention the lives of the thousands who work the fields in Indonesia for starvation wages?
Ferguson, director of the Oscar-winning “Inside Job” (2010), is unsparing about other man-made blights with which people might be more familiar, and travels the world, sometimes at personal risk, to investigate them. Appearing on camera are numerous experts (among them Nobel Prize-winning businessman Mohammed Yunus, primatologist Jane Goodall, and California Governor Jerry Brown) and victims (some poisoned by polluted drinking water from coal mining in West Virginia) supplemented by the voice-over narration of actor Oscar Isaac. He brings up the shrinking Greenland glacier sheet and threat of coastal flooding combined with stunning aerial shots of Shanghai, Istanbul, Rio, and other cities where you might reconsider buying property. And he recalls the rising cost of the agro-industry, showing equally stunning aerial shots of endless sludgy pens of cattle, noting that growing soy for livestock requires 30 times more land than growing food for people.
But as the title suggests, despite a ticking clock and multiplying threats, there are important choices that can be made in the time remaining. By choosing correctly, we stand to reverse climate change and recharge the world economy as well.
Once scoffed at, electric cars have developed into not just the least polluting but also the most economical and the coolest means of getting around. Just watch as a Tesla leaves a combustion engine sports car in the dust. Solar and wind power are so cheaply and easily installed that they bring power to those who never had electricity. And those organic small farms once regarded as a luxury of the crunchy and well-to-do now pose a challenge to a food industry that not only endangers the environment but also the health of those who consume its products.
Though the topic is global in scale and immense in its causes and consequences, Ferguson shrewdly focuses from time to time on one poignant facet or indelible detail. The images of the final seconds in a Chinese miner’s life, just one of thousands killed working for that nation’s coal industry, are haunting. It’s too late for him, but there is still time for the rest of us.
TIME TO CHOOSE
Directed by Charles Ferguson. Written by Ferguson and Chad Beck. At Kendall Square. 97 minutes. Unrated (apocalyptic fears, revolutionary solutions).