I’d seen the Age of Stupid before last night’s premiere, being involved very tangentially at one point. I remember when the lights went up at the end on that occasion, and many of the people in the audience—the majority of them not having seen the film before in its entirety—were choking back tears at the message in the film. It had been a mixture of desperation and sadness, but hope and invigoration too, and was the first time I realised that we only had so long left to sort out the extent to which we’re damaging the climate.
With the first and presumably hardest impact already received, I expected myself to be relatively blasé at the prospect People’s Premiere yesterday (the biggest ever simultaneous premiere, fact fans). But if anything I was more fearful, and more spurred on, than when I first saw it: there were still a few tears at the heartwrenching counting-up climax, but the denouement—which I think they might have tweaked—was more inspirational than before, and left me feeling less wrung out and more like rolling my sleeves up and setting to.
The president of the Maldives—one of the most at-risk countries as sea levels rise, being largely around a metre above current levels—took the opportunity of the film’s launch to announce his country’s decision to become carbon neutral within ten years. If a country as small and relatively undeveloped as the Maldives could manage that, asked director Franny Armstrong, then how could our own inaction continue to be excused by pointing at increased carbon consumption in less developed countries?
It was at that point that Ed Miliband, our own secretary of state for the environment and climate change, started looking a little sick. Worse was to come for Ed, who I ended up feeling fleetingly sorry for as he was called to the stage. The feeling soon passed, though, as he’s only an advocate of climate-change legislation when compared to his mediocre fellow-travelers. He tried hard, though, blustering about carbon capture (not actually planned for the grand Kingsnorth debacle).
The whole event ended with Pete Postlethwaite, the film’s narrator, threatening Miliband that, should the secretary of state fail to prevent Kingsnorth’s construction, he would return his OBE and publicly request to the Queen that she dissolve her cabinet, that he would no longer be able to consider himself a dedicated officer of her noble order should they remain in office. That would probably make more of an impression on anyone in the UK than not, and probably would also have sounded better coming from someone who didn’t look like they’d just wandered into the tent to keep warm. But Postlethwaite remained a charismatic and unsettling figure, as he pressed the switch that began the countdown to the Copenhagen talks in December, essentially our last hope to prevent some fifty to a hundred years of ever-worsening climate chaos followed by a long, drawn-out, wrenching, painful full stop.
Franny, Lizzie and the rest of the team have a lot to be proud of with this film. I’m a little in awe to be honest, of them and the fruits of their hard work. But as Franny said over the satellite link-up last night, before it all kicked off, the hard work starts now: not just with things like the nascent Not Stupid project, but with political pressure, individual and collective will, and whatever else it takes. It starts with us.