The Age of Stupid
Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?
It's the year 2055 and the world has been ravaged by climate change. London is underwater, Sydney is on fire and nuclear war has turned India into a wasteland. An archivist looks back at old footage from the year 2008 to understand why humankind failed to address climate change. From the director of McLibel and starring Pete Postlethwaite, this bold, provocative film warns of the dire consequences of our failure to stop climate change.
The Archivist pulls up footage of Jeh Wadia who is opening Go Air, India’s third budget airline. “Having an elite class who can fly, in a country of a billion people, is ridiculous”, he says. “My higher purpose is to ensure that I eradicate poverty.” However, the majority of Jeh’s 1,200 employees have never set foot on an aeroplane and he manages them with a rod of iron. “Does it take fucking more than ten minutes to clean this?” he demands to one of his employees tending to an aircraft. “If I find any dirt you’ll be fired!”
In another clip, the Archivist watches as Al DuVernay rescues over 100 people from flooding in New Orleans shortly after it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. Al, who paddled from house to house in his boat, recalls the experience: “that’s a real different perspective. Driving through your neighbourhood at tree level.” But Al’s relationship with the environment isn’t exactly straight forward. His career has been spent advising Shell on the best locations to drill for oil. “Certainly I’m an ecologist and an environmentalist”, he says. “I really don’t have a problem squaring that with working for an oil company I feel has done a pretty good job in being environmentally friendly."
The townspeople of Odiama, Nigeria, would probably disagree. When a dispute broke out between Shell and the Nigerian government over ownership of their land, the oil company looked on as the military massacred its inhabitants. “The ones that stayed, they gathered them up, beat them up. Raped some of our girls”, says Omieka Weked, a woman who fled into the forest when the soliders arrived. There she delivered a baby who died shortly afterwards because of a lack of clean drinking water. Layefa Malin, whose sister died during a cholera outbreak says “we thought that if we introduced Shell into this community that they will change the water, but it remains the same.”
“We had an unspoken collective pact to pretend climate change wasn’t happening. As though, if we all ignored it hard enough, it wouldn’t be true”, says the Archivist. “Not absolutely everyone. A few were shouting Fire!” Piers Guy has been developing wind farms for over fifteen years and has received death threats from local campaigners who believe his turbines will spoil their view. “It’s an emotional campaign”, Piers says. “It’s about fear and mostly based on bollocks quite frankly.” Local protestors are responsible for halting around 80% of proposed wind energy projects in Britain. Had they been built, 10% of British energy would be non-polluting.
As the years between 2009 and 2055 race by, climate change triggers more and more extreme weather events until the entire planet is destroyed. “Given our use, or misuse, of resources over the last 100 years or so, I would probably rename that age. Something like the Age of Ignorance. The Age of Stupid”, says Al. Finally the Archivist is left to wonder why humans knowingly allowed ourselves to be wiped out. “The question I’ve been asking is: why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance?” the Archivist wonders. “Is the answer that on some level, we weren’t sure if we were worth saving?”
Reviews and More
“A much sterner and more alarming polemic than An Inconvenient Truth” – The New York Times
“Bold, supremely provocative, and hugely important"–The Telegraph
“holds our attention like witnesses to a murder” – Science 2.0
“tightly constructed and dynamic” – ABC Radio News
“Educational and inventive” – Cole Smithey
“An engaging and urgent attempt to make us all see sense about climate change.” – Sydney Morning Herald
Read the diaries of director Franny Armstrong about the making of the film, here.
Festivals and Awards
The Grierson Awards - Best Green Doc
Sunny Side of the Doc - Best Green Doc
Sunchild International Environmental Festival - First Prize
Birds Eye View Film Festival - Best Documentary
British Independent Film Award - Nominee
"The largest simultaneous film premiere in terms of screen viewings" – Guinness World Records