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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #4
April 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Earth!

An Inconvenient Truth + How Your Kids Can Help on Earth Day

When you know something is right, but no one is listening, what do you do? Al Gore knew that the build up of greenhouse gases was threatening the livelihood of our planet, and didn’t stop talking about it until he won an Oscar for his climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Actually, Gore’s still talking about global warming but now everyone else is talking about it, too. Whatever your politics, the film leaves little doubt that global warming is a real threat. In fact, Gore poses the problem as a moral issue: how can we, as citizens, let this happen to us? While the message of the film is daunting, our kids looked at the images of melting ice caps and were able to grasp the sad truth about the polar bears’ diminishing habitat. They were ultimately inspired by the film's final message that everyone, no matter their age, can take action.

Our kids wanted to know how they could help take care of our planet. After changing a few light bulbs and promising to eat more local produce, they were ready to get their hands dirty. No problem -- Heal the Bay, a local watchdog organization committed to keeping the ocean clean, has declared April Earth Month, and are organizing several family events, including a two-day celebration at the Santa Monica Beach Aquarium (April 21-22). In past years, our kids have loved grabbing trash bags, donning rubber gloves and searching for trash up and down the beach. Be warned: you will find everything from cigarette butts to beer bottles! The kids got over the gross out factor very quickly after we reminded them that every soda can they picked up made the ocean safer for fish who choke on litter. And if those polar bears, who are losing their habitat, have no fish to eat? The kids went home and wrote letters in support of the bill seeking to make those bears an Endangered Species. We hope Al Gore would be proud at our new generation of environmental activists.

Film Title: An Inconvenient Truth
Directed By: Davis Guggenheim
2006, Rated PG, 100 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why This Film is Worth It: The film makes a highly convincing case for climate change, and has played a critical role in turning the national consciousness green -- for this reason, we think it's an important film for families to watch together. Gore is charming and his graphics are very simple to comprehend. Kids will particularly enjoy a cartoon explanation for global warming early on in the film. In the end crawl, the filmmakers urge citizens to take action, and list their website.
  • Younger Viewers will get the same environmental message by watching Ice Age: The Meltdown. Click here to read what we wrote a year ago, full of great ideas kids to help kids get green their daily lives.
  • Red Flags: Knowing how hard the almost-Prez elect stumped for climate change impressed our kids, even though they were a bit scared by the film's dire message. The film is basically a bulked out version of Gore's Power Point presentation with charts and scientific expositions, but is rated PG for it's occasional troubling images of human and natural devastation.
  • How to watch it: If kids watch just the first half hour of the film, they'll get Gore's message, replete with a Simpsons-like cartoon and graphic footage of the disappearing glaciers. The second half hour of the film deepens the argument, discussing the rise of atmospheric and ocean temperatures over the past several years and goes into Hurricane Katrina and Darfur -- these images are more intense. An animated bit about a polar bear trying to find a place to live doesn't appear until about an hour into the film; it lasts for under a minute, but is memorable. Then, Gore has some amazing charts demonstrating how cities like Beijing and San Francisco and countries like the Netherlands would be ruined if melting ice caps cause a rise in ocean levels. The film also tracks Gore's own personal story, including a terrible car accident that nearly took the life of his six year-old son.

Our tips for talking with your kids about this film:

  • Environmental Savvy: Ask your kids whether they think it's safe to swim off Southern California beaches and to eat fish caught in the water. (It's usually safe to swim, but never after a storm. It can be safe to eat local migratory seafood). Click here for more details on the ocean's health, like beach report cards for your local surf spot and a list of fish that are safe to eat.
  • Political Savvy:  Early in the film, Gore says "I'm Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States". Ask your kids what it says about our government that it takes a former presidential candidate to bring such critical information to the attention of the public?
  • Scientific Savvy:  Gore tells a story about a kid in his grade school was chastised for wondering whether the continents of Africa and the Americas ever fit together. Now we know they do but when Gore was young, scientists were sure that the continents had always stayed in one place. It's great for kids to realize that science is always evolving.
  • Stick-to-it Savvy: Gore talks about one of his teachers whose research in global warming was groundbreaking. When he got into the Senate, Gore invited this teacher to speak to the Congress and has stayed on this message ever since.


How the Kids Can Help For Earth Day

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • What Worked for us: The idea that our climate is changing is hard for kids to comprehend. Instead of focusing on the big issues, let your kids find manageable ways to help.
  • Heal The Bay Cleanups: Click here to read where and how to join these fun events. The celebrations at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium include face painting and film screenings, all of which are free if you help clean the beach first. We've done it many times, and recommend it, even for little kids. If your family is already booked for Earth Day, Heal The Bay runs clean ups at different beaches throughout Southern California all year round. Parents will need to sign waivers for all their kids. Drinking water is provided at all locations.
  • Polar Bears: We found two good organizations that allow kids to participate in the initiative to make the Polar Bear an Endangered Species. The National Resources Defense Council, along with other organization, is suing the government to save this beloved bear's habitat. Click here to learn more and see how your kids can get involved. The Defenders of Wildlife have a good sample of a letter kids can write to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Click here to read more about how to send the letter online.
  • Don't Get Fleeced: Patagonia, a well-known outerwear company, estimates that making new polyester fiber from recycled garments rather than using new polyester will save 76% in energy and reduce greenhouse gases by 71% in the manufacturing process. We had our kids pack up all their old fleeces and sent them off to Patagonia. Click here to learn more.
  • Computers Compost: According to Guide Wires Services 40 percent of heavy metals found in landfills today come from discarded electronic equipment. Kids can help by donating old electronics here: (refurishes for disabled or financially underprivileged),,, all have programs to take back old ones for a fee or for free if buying a new computer from them.
  • Smart Shut-Off: Leaving electronic devices plugged into the wall when you're not using them still drains energy. We found a smart-power strip that knows to go to sleep when you don't need power.
  • Fishy Facts: Purchase only non-endangered fish to help keep the ocean plentiful. Click here for a wallet card from Blue Ocean ( to keep fish facts handy.
  • Marine Mammal Care Center: If your kids enjoyed cleaning up the beach and helping keep the ocean clean for sea life, they will also enjoy visiting the wonderful sea mammal hospital in San Pedro. Kids can call ahead to learn what the facility needs, and bring supplies when they go to see how the hospital works. Click here to read about this Popcorn Adventure.

Here are some interesting tidbits to think about:

  • California has led the country in developing legislation to control carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. According to The New York Times, "California has been in the vanguard for the last five years, first with its bill to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle tailpipes in 2002, and then with its landmark 2006 law requiring a 25 percent reduction in the state's carbon dioxide emissions by 2020."
  • Get Inspired: Reading all the Earth Day issues at a magazine stand will give you an abundant supply of ideas of how you can make your life green - from purchasing carbon offsets to unplugging electronic devices to changing light bulbs. The battle for the environment has moved to the macro-level (with green architecture and design, multi-national companies making changes that help the planet) as well as the micro (families living sustainable lives “off the grid”). We liked Time's April 9 Double Issue and the April Town and Country.
  • Put your families efforts in perspective: We read about a family in New York City who is living "off the grid" for a year - not buying anything, not using packaged foods and... not using toilet paper. Suddenly, changing a few light bulbs around the house felt manageable.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

Want to see more films about the environment? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at

Want to read more about the environment? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at