Sam Burcher dot com

Sam Burcher, news views and bits inbetween......
Total Site Hits

Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Climate change, the most important story of all time is dramatized in a film that just won't go away.

The 10:10 Challenge for Copenhagen

age of stupid ver2Greenpeace is strongly behind the re-release of The Age of Stupid that aims to create a fuss about climate change. The film's green carpet premier in a solar powered eco-tent in London earlier in 2009 was well received, but did not make the impact that many thought it deserved. Its recent simultaneous world-wide screening via satellite is a reminder that the countdown to the UN Meeting on Climate Change (COP15) in Copenhagen has commenced and the need to set sensible and achievable targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is pressing.

Britain and the EU are ready to commit to a 20 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020. But Fanny Armstrong, the film's director believes that we need to do something sooner than that. She has challenged the energy secretary Ed Milliband to pledge that the British Government will be the first government to cut emissions by 10 percent in 2010. Greenpeace is calling on the worlds' leaders to come together at Copenhagen in December to agree tough and binding measures to prevent the reality and consequences of catastrophic climate change.

The 10 percent reduction ( can easily be achieved if everyone makes small changes to their lifestyle. For example by using energy saving light bulbs, turning down the heating, flying less frequently, driving less and slightly modifying food habits. Reaching targets of 30-40 percent reductions may require more than simple public participation, says Armstrong. However, proponents of renewable technologies say that it is possible to be 100 percent renewable by 2050.  (see Green Energies 100% Renewables by 2050 which will be distributed at Copenhagen)

Green OBE for Pete Postlethwaite

The Shakespearian actor Peter Postlethwaite plays the last human survivor in the year 2055 who looks back to the present time and asks why didn't we do something about climate change when we had the chance? The actor has taken personal action on saving the climate by insulating his home and installing a wind turbine. He has also pledged to return his OBE to the Queen if plans for the controversial Kingsnorth coal powered fire station go ahead. Postlethwaite recently received a new "People's OBE" made from recycled materials, which was given on behalf of people calling for more urgent action on reducing GHG.

Paradoxically, director Fanny Armstrong's carbon footprint was dramatically increased by The Age of Stupid.  Although, she feels that the 96 tonnes of CO2 she used to make and promote the film was well worth it. The film's overarching message is one of personal responsibility. ''We are the first generation to know about climate change, therefore it is our responsibility to do something about it. Those that came before didn't know about the effect of human behaviour on the climate and for those that are to follow, it will be too late,'' she says.

The Age of Stupid plays to the theme of a disenchanted and dystopian society that ultimately destroys its own environment. From the isolation of his watch tower surrounded by a sea of water and some artefacts of our time, Postlethwaite, with the aid of a touch screen computer, narrates the stories of six documentary-type characters.  His voice links us to their experience of events such as Hurricane Katrina and the effects of corporations on the environment as we approached 2015. This is the year by which the stabilization of the earth's temperature must be within 2 degrees centigrade of pre-industrial levels.

Modern life is made of oil

Modern societies have gorged themselves on ancient sunlight.  And, as peak oil approaches instead of using the remaining reserves to build a society that could run without oil (see Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free ) billions of barrels are indiscriminately being burned off every day. In Nigeria the gas flares that rage day and night could be converted into energy for the locals, but instead each year the oil equivalent of powering 10 million homes annually is wasted. A pioneering architect Jim Archer has come up with a solution for generating heat for cooking and hot water for washing by recycling refuse in Kibera, Kenya's largest slum. (see

One of the stand-out characters is a young woman in Nigeria who desperately wants to train as a doctor after the death of her sister.  To fund her studies she catches fish from the local river that the Shell Oil Company polluted and never cleaned up. The small fish that can be salvaged are washed off with detergent and sold. She shows us the empty half-built school buildings that the company promised to complete with the 13 percent of £1.5 million per hour oil profits that are supposed to benefit the local community.

Participation is the key

This film follows in the green footsteps of former US Vice-President Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth.  However, the shocks come from The Age of Stupid's capacity to reflect on imperialism as the root of capitalism and fast forward to the future where the consequences of infinite economic growth destroy humanity.  It also asks important questions like, "Why didn't the USA sign the Kyoto protocol?"  The key facts and statistics of the bloated overuse of the worlds' resources relayed to us by a child is emotive, but perhaps lacks the punch of Gore's potent PowerPoint presentation that explicitly measures the impact of global warming on the planet.

On the other hand this film gives us a good insight into the mentality of the anti-windfarm protestors in the UK who say they believe in renewable energies and climate change, yet fight tooth and claw to prevent wind farms in their back yard. This denial is a sharp contrast to the efforts of individuals in Africa who are striving to generate power for the local community by any means possible (see These local perspectives are telling in the fight against global warming.

Ultimately, there is nothing helpless or hopeless about social participation on an unprecedented scale to turn the climate issue around.  The urgency, energy and creativity of The Age of Stupid must motivate us beyond consumerism to realise our worth and to do something positive to build a better society and make the planet a secure and habitable home for all.