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Stupid, or not stupid?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 March 2009 at 9:20 am

I went to the premiere of The Age of Stupid on Sunday night. That's a first for me, having never been to a premiere before. But I didn't walk down the green carpet in Leicester Square - just a trip to Exeter Picture House - where we watched what was going on in London, before the simultaneous showing of the film in 65 places around the country. This got it into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest simultaneous premiere of a film.

The Age of Stupid is remarkable in many ways. Totally independent of a studio system which limits what film makers can say, it was funded by hundreds of different groups and individuals using a crowd-funding model. It stars Pete Postlethwaite, as a lone survivor in a devastated 2055, looking back at archive footage from 2007, and asking why we didn't stop climate change when we had the chance.

So what's this got to do with renewable energy, you may ask? Well, in addition to news clips, there are six interwoven stories running through the film. One of them is about Piers Guy's attempt to fight the anti wind lobby and put up a wind farm in Bedfordshire.

It illustrated the difficulties that we have in moving to renewable energy in Britain. The locals were up in arms about the development, with many of the objections being mainly aesthetic. Some said they were worried about noise, which seemed rather less credible when we learned that it was next door to a hugely noisy drag racing circuit. The hypocrisy of some of their number was demonstrated beautifully by the woman in the trailer for the film below, who agreed that renewables are part of the solution to global warming ... just not in her back yard thank you very much.

The other stories focused on a mountain guide in France, a man starting India's first low cost airline, a Shell employee from New Orleans, a Nigerian woman living in Shell's most profitable oil region, and two Iraqi refugee children separated from their brother.

The result was powerful, engaging, frightening, depressing - a vivid story about climate change, about oil (and our dependence on it), consumerism, poverty, corporate power and a collective burying of our heads in the sand.

For those who need to be frightened before they act, I highly recommend seeing it. It is a wonderfully told story of what could happen if we don't do anything. If, like me, you prefer a vision of what the alternative might look like and prefer to move towards something rather than away, then you might want to think twice. Either way, it's a great leap forward from Al Gore with PowerPoint. My only worry is that, even if it gets a cinema release, will it just end up preaching to the converted?

The aim of the film is to encourage action in the run up to the climate talks in Copenhagen this December. These launched on the night with the president of the Maldives announcing his ambitious plans to make the Maldives zero carbon (more on this soon). Pete Postlethwaite also declared that he would give back his OBE if the Government gives the go-ahead to the controversial new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth next month. You can get involved by signing up at Not Stupid.

Photo: Spanner films

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