Pop Semiotics:
An Inconvenient Truth About the Unchained Goddess

Pop Semiotics — By on March 30, 2007 at 12:00 pm

You might assume that An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s Oscar-winning PowerPoint presentation, was the first alarmist documentary on global warming by a celebrity. But that distinction actually goes to The Unchained Goddess (1958), a video produced by Frank Capra (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) and narrated by Mel Blanc (voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Barney Rubble, et al.). The video was first produced for Bell Labs for their television program “The Bell Telephone Hour.”


Gore’s apocalyptic claims are rather tame compared to those made by Dr. Frank Baxter. In an early scene Dr. Baxter–an English professor playing a scientist–explains the dangers that we face:

“It’s been calculated that a few degrees rise in temperature would melt the polar ice caps. And if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats viewing the ground towers of Miami through one hundred and fifty feet of tropical water.

The animated map showing several states (including Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas) completely covered in water is the height of campy alarmist brilliance.
Like other Bell science films, The Unchained Goddess was shown in middle school science classes throughout the sixties. (Is it possible that Gore saw this film and had an eco-epiphany?) Hundreds of thousands of students were therefore made aware of the dangers of C02 emissions and melting icecaps. So why didn’t they do anything about it? If the threat of Walt Disney World becoming Waterworld wasn’t enough to scare the Baby Boom generation, why does Gore think we’ll care now?
Other posts in this series:



  • http://www.evaneco.com Don (evangelicalecologist.com)

    Man, where do you come up with this stuff? :-)

  • JohnW

    Hey Don, Don’t you know James Dobson and Tony Perkins think Global Warming is just a devisive issue without any merit? It’s only natural that a truly evangelical blog would try to smear Gore and pooh pooh his message, right?
    I am praying for the day when christians stop paying any attention to Dobson and Perkins as their priorities for some reason always seem to line up with far-right conservative political viewpoints.

  • ucfengr

    Hey Don, Don’t you know James Dobson and Tony Perkins think Global Warming is just a devisive issue without any merit?
    How does this have any bearing on whether human induced global warming is happening or not and whether or not it is a major threat to civilization? If you want to make the case for (or against) human induced global warming, educate yourself on the science and make the case. It’s really not that hard to do.

  • ucfengr

    BTW–Interesting blog, Don. I agree with you assessment that much of the problem with the global warming debate is the focus on the personalities instead of the science, though it is easy to see why. Science education in the US (and probably much of the world) is pretty woeful for most folks.

  • JohnW

    Uncengr,
    My comments are in response to the post which belittles Al Gore and pooh pooh what he is talking about. Isn’t that clear?
    Also, Would you be so kind as to direct me to some books or readily available materials that definitively point out that the jury is still out on Global Warming. I’d be happy to check these out.

  • ucfengr

    My comments are in response to the post which belittles Al Gore and pooh pooh what he is talking about. Isn’t that clear?
    Obviously not.
    Also, Would you be so kind as to direct me to some books or readily available materials that definitively point out that the jury is still out on Global Warming. I’d be happy to check these out.
    Check out Don’s Blog (link on 1st post). He seems to have a pretty extensive blog roll and book list.

  • TexasTechie

    JohnW:
    You should check out the following books if you’re genuinely interested in an alternative view to the current GW orthodoxy:
    Michaels, P. J. (2005) Shattered Consensus: The true state of global warming.
    Avery, D.T. & Singer, S. F. (2007). Unstoppable global warming: Every 1500 years.
    You may also want to check out the writings of Roger Pielke Sr. & his son, Roger Jr. the University of Colorado, Boulder. You can check it out here:
    http://cires.colorado.edu/science/groups/pielke/
    On another note, why shouldn’t Algore be belittled? He’s a pompous hypocrite who is playing on our fears by lying to us about the environment.

  • JohnW

    TexasTechie,
    Just like Our President George W. Bush should be belittled for playing on people’s fears-using his bogus “war on terror” BS to increase his executive power, right?

  • JohnW

    Let me explain why my comments about James Dobson and Tony Perkins are relevant.
    Recently, Richard Cizik has been speaking out about Global Warming and concern for the environment being a legitimate concern of evangelical christians. Mr. James Dobson writes the National Association of Evangelicals saying Cizik should step down unless he backs off on this (supposedly because it’s not focusing on the true message of the gospel). It’s my opinion that James Dobson and Tony Perkins are really concerned that they are beginning to loose their political power and the ability to define what are the important issues for american evangelical christians. That’s how my comments related to Joe’s post belittling and mocking Al Gore and concerns about global warming.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (gryph)

    What I find hysterically funny about the situation is that Christian Evangelicals aren’t criticizing Al Gore because he is preaching about Armageddon, its because they think he’s preaching about the wrong Armageddon.
    Will the real Armageddon please stand up? Or did it get Left Behind along with Kirk Cameron’s acting career?

  • http://www.pursuingholiness.com Laura

    The funny part is even that’s not the first global climate scare – the first was over a hundred years ago – 1895, NY Times.

  • Claude

    I think the point that Dobson and others were trying to make is that entering the fight over global warming puts Christians in a debate where, as Christians, they have no special expertise. You can’t just be against global warming. You’d have to support some particular policy for dealing with the problem. There isn’t a Christian position on nuclear energy, wind farms, or carbon taxes. Jesus said lots of important things about love, forgiveness, and marriage but He didn’t explain how to heat your home.

  • TexasTechie

    JohnW,
    I give you a D- because you apparently FAILED to realize that I was referencing Algore’s inane rant about how GWB “played on our fears” w/respect to 9/11 & the war on terror. Let me ask: how would the irrational left be any different if they now felt free to vilify GWB b/c of his beliefs about the war on terror, global warming, religion, or anthing else? The answer is simple: THEY WOULD NOT ACT ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN THEY CURRENTLY DO. The left has expressed their irrational hatred for GWB in a variety of ways, one of which is the persistant, pernicious, distortion of reality. At the same time, the left is unable to endure even the slightest reproach, rebuff, or challenge to their heros, patron saints, or sources of positive energy w/out feeling personally offended, as though their boorish, putrid perspective should be exempt from critique. Given that Algore is a dishonest, hypocritical fool, who is too stupid (he may just be ignorant) to realize that he’s also a tool, he deserves whatever derision he receives, no matter who it’s from. As one of his disciples, you should realize that a servant is not above his master.

  • JonmW

    TexasTechie,
    Is constitutional scholar Bruce Fein a member of the “irrational left”? How about Congressman Ron Paul?
    I don’t understand why you go on this long rant about the irrational left in response to my post.
    I saw Glen Beck last night on CNN. he had Tim Lahaye on his show talking about the End Times. Glenn believes concern about global warming is just a United Nations plot to institute a one world government. So maybe Albert Gore is really a tool of Satan in line with the anti-christ?

  • JohnW

    Claude,
    Apparently, Mr. Dobson thinks there is a christian position on what constitutes “moral values” and on whether or not christians should support President Bush and conservative political agendas generally.
    What gives Mr. Dobson the right to insert himself into the affairs of the administration of the National Association of Evangelicals?

  • ucfengr

    Is constitutional scholar Bruce Fein a member of the “irrational left”? How about Congressman Ron Paul?
    John, if you are going to reference two folks that most people either have never heard of or are only vaguely aware, it would be helpful establish their relevance to the matter. For example, you could provide a link or a url to someplace where they have been as irrationally critical of GWB as, say Rosie O’Donnell or Michael Moore.
    I saw Glen Beck last night on CNN. he had Tim Lahaye on his show talking about the End Times. Glenn believes concern about global warming is just a United Nations plot to institute a one world government.
    So Glen Beck has pretty much the same view of the UN as you do of PNAC. I don’t know if that makes you both equally crazy or equally sane.

  • http://theironscroll.blogspot.com/ Towering Barbarian

    Texas Techie,
    Thanks for the text references. ^_^
    Quite frankly, it amuses me that none of those who claim to believe in “Global Warming” had any rebukes for Al Gore when it turned out that he was in the habit of wasting electricity himself. Almost as if they don’t believe in it being manmade either. ^_~

  • Mike O

    Anyone notice that National Geographic had an article noting that NASA’s Mars exploration has observed that the temperature on Mars has been warming for the last three years as evidenced by the dissapation of Mar’s CO2 “Ice Cap”. And lo and behold some Russian has the idea that solar activity is causing both planets to heat up a little which of course NG called contraversial.

  • skirtall

    dont no what the fus iss all about…vp gore isha gut mannund demands that ve listen to him…global warming ist a thing das is very much my life work und I kno that the scieentiest is working hard and with very little religoin of any kind to help dem…and then it will get solved but not mit prayer and otherr kindds of maguc tricks that the religioin people spout aboutt Ha ??

  • Ted

    The truth of Global Warming can be found in this video.
    http://www.gorelied.notlong.com

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    JohnW,
    Why do you call this disagreement, an exploration of the recent popular trend, “smear”? Especially with fear-generating the nonsense that Al published in the 80s, one can certainly question his “scientific” credibility.
    Collin
    http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com

  • JohnW

    Unfengr,
    Try using google and type in
    Bruce Fein Bush
    and then try
    Ron Paul Bush
    What you’ll get is honest disagreement and criticism of President Bush from a conservative perspective and not
    irrationally critical Bush hatred. You see, you don’t have to be a member of the “hate america left” to speak out against what is going wrong in our country, just a concerned citizen and intellectually honest.

  • BlakeAB

    Since so many of you are using clips & quotes…
    “As the world’s largest industry, the insurance business faces more financial risk
    from global warming than any other sector of the economy.”
    Q:
    For some time, the business community, specifically the oil and gas industry, has waged a campaign to magnify scientific uncertainties. Plus, they consistently highlight studies that show that controlling CO2 emissions creates burdensome economic costs. Why do the insurance companies buy into the science?
    A:
    I would say that insurers are better equipped to understand and evaluate the science than most other industries, and they have no particular vested interest in propping up polluting industries. To the contrary, pollution liability is one of the emerging (often insured) risks that keep them up at night. They are also more vulnerable to the impacts; they can’t afford to overlook or be wrong about the science. Insurers who have looked at the climate-change issue closely see more burdensome economic costs from inaction than from prudent action, and, in fact, they are developing business opportunities associated with climate-change mitigation and adaptation solutions. They are also quick to recognize that investments in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions can be highly cost-effective in terms of reduced energy expenditures.
    FROM: http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2006/apr/business/pt_insurance.html
    My point to all you skeptics is, if you won’t trust science, or you are confused because your favorite
    skeptic -.org- is taking “donations” from the coal, oil and gas companies, don’t fret my misinformed friends!
    Simply monitor the worlds largest industry! See what they’re worried about! If they raise premiums too high
    they’re screwed, if they don’t raise rates high enough, they are definitely screwed. Insurers are glued to the science!
    AND SO SHOULD YOU! -hey kids, Google this!: [insurance “Insured losses” weather] …it’s fun! :0)

  • johnW

    Good point about the insurance people-they just look at the facts. I’m going to google “insurance “Insured losses” weather”

  • smmtheory

    And who do the insurance execs get to explain the science to them since they don’t bother hiring any scientists?

  • ucfengr

    Try using google and type in Bruce Fein Bush and then try Ron Paul Bush
    John, I am familiar with Google; I was trying to give you a chance to point out a “worst case” example (a personal favorite, perhaps) of Paul or Fein comparing Bush to Hitler, claiming he wasn’t a Christian, or making the case that the Iraq war was only about oil or GWB getting Hussein for Daddy; all common themes among the “hate America left”. I really don’t have the time to scour the writings of an obscure Congressman from Texas or an equally obscure “constitutional scholar” (isn’t Ann Coulter a “constitutional scholar”?) for examples of irrational Bush hatred; I can get quite enough of that from the “Bush hating left” by simply reading the Washington Post or New York Times.
    Why do the insurance companies buy into the science?
    Blake, I don’t think it is necessarily true that insurance companies “buy into the science”, but insurance companies are in the business of managing risk so it is in their financial interest to account for the risk of “global warming” in their premiums. But what does this really mean? Insurance companies have to account for all sorts of things that are extremely unlikely to happen when they calculate premiums. Even though I am a skeptic, I still acknowledge a risk; I just think the risk is remote enough to warrant doing very little right away.

  • JohnW

    Uncengr,
    You don’t have time to read on your own, but you got time to throw out rhetorical grenades. Can’t take you very seriously.
    If you are going to support your man Bush, it seems like you would atleast like to be aware of the criticism against him-including criticism from respected conservatives.
    John

  • ucfengr

    You don’t have time to read on your own, but you got time to throw out rhetorical grenades. Can’t take you very seriously.
    No John, what I don’t have time to do is dig up supporting evidence for your posts. That I have to makes it hard for me to take you seriously. In post 13, TexasTechie was referencing the “irrational left”, in other words, folks that think Bush is the 2nd coming of Hitler (or 3rd if you consider Reagan as 2nd). You responded by throwing out the names of Ron Paul and Bruce Fein. Now these two have been critical of Bush (as have many others on the right, and I for that matter), but not in the Bush is Hitler, “Bush lied, people died”, or “Bush went to war for oil” way that folks like Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Jeff Spicoli (aka Sean Penn), etc. have been. For you to try to compare the two groups is more than a little disingenuous.
    f you are going to support your man Bush
    It always amuses me that the “Bush hating left” assumes that Bush supporters love Bush as much as they hate him.

  • JohnW

    Uncengr,
    “Bush lied, people died”, or “Bush went to war for oil” – ALL TRUE.
    Bush is not Hitler, however, he most certainly is a fascist in the sense that he is a right-wing authoritarian and believes is a corporatist type of governement.
    I LOVE AMERICA and so do Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Jeff Spicoli, Ron Paul, Bruce Fein, and William F. Buckly…

  • ucfengr

    Bush is not Hitler, however, he most certainly is a fascist in the sense that he is a right-wing authoritarian and believes is a corporatist type of governement.
    Who are you going to hate on January 21, 2008, when George Bush leaves office, without having established his authoritarian-theocratic government?
    I LOVE AMERICA and so do Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Jeff Spicoli
    No they don’t and I doubt you do either. Sad, really. The people who have, arguably benefited most from the freedoms of America have chosen to side with terrorists and the regimes that support them because of their overwhelming hatred of George Bush and the America he represents.

  • JohnW

    Ok, Dick Cheney, this isn’t going anywhere, why don’t we stop….

  • ucfengr

    Oooh, completely deranged and no sense of humor; you must be a real hit with the ladies, Johnny.

  • JohnW

    huh?

  • smmtheory

    I’d like to see JohnW answer the question Ucfengr posed…
    Who are you going to hate on January 21, 2008, when George Bush leaves office, without having established his authoritarian-theocratic government?

  • http://outofthedepths.blogspot.com/ Steve

    Well I remember that guy and that series. Watched it when I was young. The series fanned my excitement for science. I particularly remember one on hurricanes. The series helped inspire me to pursue my vocation. So I went to college for ten years and have worked in science and technology for the twenty nine years since. And now I learn he was an English professor!

  • JohnW

    smmtheory,
    You can go ahead and answer uncenfgr’s question at Post No. 30 for me. Go ahead and answer it the way you think I’d answer it. That might be kind of funny and entertaining.
    One man’s hatred is another man’s realistic criticism, don’t you think?

  • smmtheory

    I was just curious how you would respond considering your irrational diatribe about President Bush being a fascist, JohnW. (Irrational diatribe does not equal realistic criticism in my estimation, btw.) I can only surmise that the question has you so stumped you cannot even respond “I don’t know”.

  • ucfengr

    One man’s hatred is another man’s realistic criticism, don’t you think?
    So John, you think “realistic criticism” is an appropriate response towards a man who, by your standards, started a war resulting in the deaths of several hundred thousand people, all for personal gain and desires to set up an authoritarian dictatorship in the country you ostensibly love? What would he have to do to really get you mad? I would think armed resistance a more reasonable response if I shared your opinion.

  • JohnW

    ucfengr,
    I have faith in democracy, therefore I have been expressing my dissenting views to people, I have attended protests, and I write my elected officials. All very appropriate actions for a concerned citizen. You need to stop believing the stereotypes you see on Fox News. People who oppose the administration are crazy hate-america first types.
    Maybe if Bush tries some monkey business in Iran, I’ll have to kick it up a notch.
    smmtheory, fascism is a loaded word, however if you investigate it traditional meaning, the Bush administration fits the definition.

  • ucfengr

    I have faith in democracy
    Then why don’t you want to see it spread to places like Iran and Iraq? Why do you prefer to defend regimes that support terrorists, severely oppress woman, sexual minorities,and political opponents, and threaten their neighbors with nuclear destruction? When did it become a liberal value to defend regimes that force female circumcisions, hang homosexuals, and threaten to complete the genocide of the Jews?
    Maybe if Bush tries some monkey business in Iran, I’ll have to kick it up a notch.
    I do love the way that you assume that anything that happens in Iran will be Bush’s fault. I am sure it also gives great comfort to the mullahs; knowing that they can rely on you to come to their defense with a really strongly worded letter to your Congressmen if Bush tries anything funny. You know, John you might be dangerous if you had the courage to match your convictions.

  • smmtheory

    fascism is a loaded word
    It is indeed, and it is your use of the word in direct connection with the President’s name (signifying your true opinion, the rest of your sentence was just smoke-screen) that constitutes an irrational diatribe that is at the heart of the malignancy generally know as Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  • JohnW

    you guys are boring.

  • ucfengr

    you guys are boring.
    Whether this is true or not has no bearing on your inability to rationalize your stated belief in democracy with your propensity to support oppressive, terrorist regimes as long as they also oppose George Bush.

  • JohnW

    Hey guy, you sound mighty bored. Why don’t you visit crooksandliars.com and make some crazy comments there for a change.

  • ucfengr

    Hey guy, you sound mighty bored.
    I suspect I would get mighty bored if all I had to do was wait for you to try to rationalize your stated belief in democracy with your propensity to support oppressive, terrorist regimes as long as they also oppose George Bush. Fortunately, I do have other things to keep me occupied.

  • JohnW

    Ucengr,
    “defend regimes that support terrorists”
    “propensity to support oppressive, terrorist regimes”
    “support oppressive, terrorist regimes”
    These characterizations of yours are pretty over the top and offensive don’t you think? You think its ok to say these sorts of things?
    Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill Oreilley, and Ann Coulter have done their jobs well…

  • ucfengr

    These characterizations of yours are pretty over the top and offensive don’t you think? You think its ok to say these sorts of things?
    Which characterization do you find offensive, John, the characterization Iran as a terror supporting regime or characterization of you as a supporter, as long as they oppose Bush? But seriously, I do understand your dilemma. If I had to recouncil a love of democracy and America with a willingness to support terror regimes as long as they oppose America’s democratically elected President, I’d be pretty darn troubled too, but that’s not my problem; it’s yours.

  • ucfengr

    John, I really don’t understand your problem with the characterization. You said “Maybe if Bush tries some monkey business in Iran, I’ll have to kick it up a notch.”, the clear implication being that in the case of military conflict between the US and Iran, you are siding with Iran. So, I guess your problem is with my characterization of Iran as a “terrorist regime”. I am reminded of a “Simpsons” episode in which Sideshow Bob describes prison as a “urine soaked, Hell hole”. A member of the parole board objected to his charterization, preferring to characterize it as a “pee-pee soaked, Heck hole”. I guess I could refer to Iran as a “freedom fighter (one man’s terrorist…) regime”, but changing the characterization doesn’t change the reality.

  • JohnW

    Let me be as plain as I can. All I’ve ever done here is criticize the Bush administration and advocate working within our democratic system. You are saying I support Terrorism-shouldn’t you be contacting the department of homeland security, if you believe this?
    That’s simply a sick disgusting thing to say. Get it?
    And FYI, if Bush starts a war in Iran under a false pretext-you will be seeing some serious protesting going on in this country. So big even the conservative corporate media won’t be able to ignore it or say it’s only a few far-left crazy people involved. That’s not terrorism-that’s letting our government know you don’t like what they are doing in our name.
    You are a real tough guy, making all your sick comments anonymously on a computer. I doubt you would have the nerve to say any of this kind of stuff to anyone in person.
    This is it Uncengr-I will no longer respond to any of your comments here. No hard feelings-I just don’t think there is any point to these exchanges.
    Cordially,
    JohnW

  • ucfengr

    And FYI, if Bush starts a war in Iran under a false pretext-you will be seeing some serious protesting going on in this country.
    Of course, the problem is that you have already decided that any conflict between the US and Iran is going to be the result of “monkey business” by George Bush. Iran has a long history of supporting terrorists and flaunting international norms (i.e. kidnapping diplomatic personnel and holding them hostage, issuing religious death warrants on writers, etc.), and yet you are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt over George Bush. Now you may not consider this supporting “terrorist regimes” but I find hard to believe that your actions would be substantially different if it was your intension to support such regimes.
    You are a real tough guy, making all your sick comments anonymously on a computer. I doubt you would have the nerve to say any of this kind of stuff to anyone in person.
    You’d be wrong (not about me being a “real tough guy, though). I don’t mince words in person or on the computer. My purpose in these exchanges is not to spare your feelings, but rather to expose to you the reality of what you are willing to condone because of your hatred of George Bush, and make no mistake, accusing George Bush of manufacturing a war, resulting in the death of thousands of people for personal gain is not “realistic criticism”, it is blind, maybe even deranged, hatred.

  • JohnW

    Readers of the Evangelical Outposts – Please wake up and see what is going on in our nation before you loose your freedoms!
    [www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040407J.shtml]
    Leading voices in the conservative movement are demanding that the Democrat-controlled Congress restore checks and balances within the government and rein in the power of President George W. Bush. Their point of view is consistently being drowned out by the “Anne Coulter wing” of the Republican Party, fed by the “ignorance of members of Congress about the principles of a constitutional democracy.”
    This is the view expressed by Bruce Fein. Fein served as associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan and is a founder of a conservative movement known as the Liberty Coalition. The Coalition has launched a new initiative, known as the American Freedom Agenda.
    The AFA’s ten-point action program calls on Congress to:
    End the use of military commissions to prosecute crimes.
    Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture.
    Prohibit the detention of American citizens as enemy combatants without proof.
    Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien combatants.
    End National Security Agency warrant less wiretapping.
    Challenge presidential signing statements.
    Bar executive use of the state-secret privilege to deny justice.
    Prohibit the president from collaborating with foreign governments to kidnap, detain or torture persons abroad.
    Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without threat of persecution.
    Prohibit of the labeling of groups or individuals in the US as global terrorists based on secret evidence.

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