The Age of Stupid film (Oct09)

I’ve just watched this film at a screening in the nearby village of South Petherton. The village hall was jam packed, although I was one of the few who had taken along my children. At the beginning we were warned of bad language in the film but actually all that I noticed was someone swearing a couple of times.

It wasn’t really a very child-friendly film. My middle son, who is nearly 13, found it hard going – he said it was ‘boring’ and not nearly as good as ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. However my youngest son, who is two years younger was more positive. He wanted to look at the website –

Sitting next to me was a friend who imports toys and stationery products from China. I turned to look at him when the film explained that about one quarter of the energy produced in China is used on making – in their words – ‘crap products’ to export overseas. He was asleep! To be fair, I don’t think he snoozed off for long and he definitely didn’t do it after that – but perhaps that was because I kept an eye on him….

The part of the film I found most engaging was about a chap who was trying to get more wind turbines built in the UK. He said that we really needed to move faster on this but most of the proposals put forward are turned down in the planning process by protesters.

The key concern is aesthetics. And this is despite the fact that most people claim that they are worried about climate change and want to do something about it. That ‘something’ clearly doesn’t stretch to having turbines anywhere near their homes. Personally, I’d be very keen to have some turbines on the hill where I live – they would be far more attractive, in my view, than the existing mobile phone mast. But I’m not yet sure how my neighbours would react…

There’s one statistic in the film that’s particularly striking even though I’ve heard it before. It tells us that whilst only 1% of scientists are sceptical about man-made climate change, the figure for the general public is around 60%. I think that there’s so much debate about whether there is a problem or not because it diverts people from facing up to the fact that we’re all going to have to make changes to our lifestyles.

Certainly, when I went to the Met Office in Exeter, where weather across the globe is forecast in the near and long term, there were no doubts at all. They were unequivocal. Climate change is happening and we need to respond.

The Age of Stupid gave insights into people’s lives across the globe. One of it’s strongest messages is about the disparity between the rich and the poor, as well as pointing a finger at the capitalist system. They summarised this with a quotation saying that our society was good at making a profit but not so good at preservation. And in the debate that followed the film in the village hall there were fiercely opposing views on this subject.

Personally, I don’t think we can sort out all the evils of the world – and come up with a completely fair society with no poverty or injustice. And I believe that it doesn’t make sense to suggest that we have to address these concerns before we can really do anything about climate change or other environmental issues. I don’t think it’s a sin to make a profit. What I do think is that we want to try and make sure that people profit from working towards a green future.

That’s an argument I’ve been having for a very long time. In 1989 I was a speaker at the Green Party conference in Wolverhampton. I was heckled from the audience with a cry of ‘why have we got someone on the platform who is making money from the environment’. Although the debate may have a similar theme, I think we’ve moved on a long way from then – and many more businesses are moving in the right direction. I don’t want to take away the profit motive. I want to encourage them to do more – a lot more.

Hopefully, the Age of Stupid, will help with this. It was certainly thought-provoking on a number of levels. I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to go, although you might get mixed reviews from your children…..
Phone mast on Coker Hill

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