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An ‘Inconvenient’ Campaign: BHS Students Promote Al Gore’s Documentary

By Suzanne La Barre
Tuesday July 04, 2006

Al Gore need not advertise his recently released documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, in Berkeley—a group of high school students are doing it for him.  

For more than a week, 35 hand-drawn posters, each promoting the movie, have adorned the site of the late Eddie Bauer store on Shattuck Avenue at Allston Way. 

Rendered in markers on butcher paper and tacked up with layers of tape, the posters urge onlookers to view the critically acclaimed documentary, which features Gore in his crusade against global warming. 

“Hey you. Yeah, you,” one poster says. “Do you care about our future? Watch! An Inconvenient Truth.” An arrow points to a drawing of Earth with the words, “Find out how to save this.” 

None of the posters is signed and no two are the same.  

There are scholarly renditions: “By burning fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil, and clearing forests, we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxides in the Earth’s atmosphere, and temperatures are rising,” a text-laden poster says. “I would encourage people to see ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ because I want them to understand it’s time to use the energy saving.” 

There are plugs for alternative transportation: Hybrid cars “can save over 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year,” one poster says, while another, featuring an image of a bicycle, declares, “Ride me and save the world.” 

The doomsday variety features prominently: One poster depicts an underwater world and forebodingly asks, “Where will you be in 50 years?” 

The posters were a project of Matt Fishbach’s advanced biology course at Berkeley High School last semester when students learned about environmental issues, including global warming. 

“It pretty much goes along the precept of ‘think globally, act locally,’” Fishbach said in a phone message. (He was out of town this week and could not be reached for further comment.) 

Berkeley Unified School District public information officer Mark Coplan touted the project as “an outstanding effort by Berkeley young people to do grassroots advertising.”  

The building’s owner, a private bank trust, probably did not sanction the posting of the signs, said John Gordon, of Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services, the property’s broker. 

“My guess is it is not authorized. Banks generally don’t take political viewpoints,” he said Friday.  

Still, the signs remain. They’ve survived wind, sun, destructive passers-by and other wear and tear.  

They’ve had help. Sympathetic observers like Bonnie Hughes have mended the posters when they’ve torn or been swept away. Hughes now traverses Shattuck Avenue with a roll of packing tape in tow and urges others do the same. “I recommend that everyone carry tape with them,” she said.  

An Inconvenient Truth opened in theaters in late May. The film interweaves Gore’s personal history with a crash course in global warming, and has been described by critics as “highly persuasive,” “informative and enlightening” and “for a doomsday lecture … shockingly entertaining.” 

The film sold out the first weekend it opened at California Theatre on Kittredge Street, around the corner from the collection of student posters, and continues to play on two screens, an employee said.