Richmond-upon-Thames is Going Plastic-Free

Kew goes plastic-bag-freeRichmond traders and residents are campaigning to end the use of plastic bags for shopping in the borough.

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• Get a reusable shopping bag - you can buy one of the Greener Kew ones from a local trader if you need one
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Monday, 16 March 2009

The Age of Stupid

Last night I watched a climate 'activist' film called the Age of Stupid. It is basically a documentary set within a dramatisation showing the world in 2055 when things have gone very badly wrong and most life, and most humans, have disappeared. Pete Postlethwaite sits in an archive wondering why we were so stupid, and didnt act to save ourselves before it was too late, when it was so very obvious that there was a climate crisis emerging.

It was very moving and energising and the premiere was run on solar power in Leicester Square. It had about 1% of the emissions of a typical hollywood premiere apparently.

It ended with a couple of announcements, one being that the Maldives have announced they are going to be the world's first carbon-neutral country, and intend to achieve this within 10 years. Another was from Pete Postlethwaite who said to Ed Milliband, who was brave enough to turn up for a bashing, that if the government approve the building of a coal station in Kent this year, he will return his OBE - and he will also demand that Ed Milliband should be removed from his post as he is not fit to represent the people. They also wanted to draw attention to the Copenhagen summit this December at which emissions will be discussed and targets agreed, by the world's governments.

There is lots more to say about all this and it is very much a fierce campaign. The people who believe climate change is an emergnecy, naturally become very passionate about it. If you dont think it is an emergency you are less likely to be so active and passionate although you might think there is some kind of problem that you can address in a few small ways.

I felt the film was not just about climate change however. Quite a lot of it was about social injustice and the oil industry, it was centered around the idea that oil is a dirty thing. I felt this was a distortion.

For example, it is a fact that up to a fifth of the world's carbon emissions are coming from forests as they are cut and burned away. This was not mentioned once in the film , the whole focus was on oil - in the states, in nigeria, in iraq, in india; but oil is not the only factor and oil is not all bad. It would be good if they had mentioned the forests and included a sotry of someone in a forest/deforested area. Deforestation is a serious issue here becuase not only are you releasing carbon from the living trees of today (as opposed to the dead plants of the long distant past, as in oil) but you are also destroying one of the few natural carbon capture systems we have that can function on a really large scale. Its a climate double whammy.

We all are contributing to all these problems, and to deforestation we are adding through the consumption of palm oil, meat, and timber products. Palm oil is in almost everything you want to eat or use in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps etc, so its a nightmare trying to cut it out of your diet or lifestyle. I've tried to start doing it - its really really hard. Meat - especially the beef cattle - is nourished on a lot of soya and other vegetable products a lot of which are grown in cleared forest lands, largely in South America's Amazon forests, and unfortunately the land doesnt stay cultivable for more than a few years so there is a constant need to move on and clear more forest.

Timber and wood and paper markets also add to the damage - the construction industry uses a lot of the asian rainforests, in particular for China's growth. But also many of the nice garden furniture you buy at the garden centre has come from - often illegally - logged forests in Asia. This to me is scandalous but it goes on. Even worse was when I learned that some loo paper is made from tropical forest wood. This is really dreadful to destroy such wealth of species and diversity so we can wipe our arses once. I would like to see laws that loo roll has to be made of recycled paper.

Anyway putting all that aside I would like to propose that we could investigate having a screening of the Age of Stupid in Kew when it becomes publicly available on May 1st. In the meantime you can go to see it at a cinema.

Find out more
Film: The Age of Stupid
Climate Change Campaigners
Deforestation and Climate Change

Thanks for reading, do post your comments.


  1. For me this film does everything that has failed about the environmental movement - it paints a bleak picture of the future of apocalypse. Nearly all the films of the future paint the future as apocalypse already so not really any different from what people are carrying with them in their minds. What we needed was a film that perhaps shows how it could turn out if we don't increase the pace of news ways of living, and then went on to show what we did to turn the situation around. For me it is a back slapping picture for the already converted pointing at everyone else calling them stupid. When did calling someone stupid ever persuade someone to behave in a different way?

  2. That is a good point and a really interesting perspective. I am still very much immersed in the experience and hadnt thought of it that way. I do normally think that it is really good to present a positive view because when you imagine something happening, it makes it more likely to happen that way. So if we imaginde ourselves all with our own wind turbines, cycling everywhere and surrounded by a healthy nature, it would be more likely to happen. Thanks.


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