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Climate Change Education .Org:
Age of Stupid -- Summary

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Age of Stupid
Stephen Schneider
Michael Wehner
Film Synopsis 1 2
Recommendations by

North American Theater Premier:
May 2009,
San Francisco
Who Was There

Photos 1 2


The film begins with the Big Bang occurring 13 billion years ago and then goes forward in time. There is a montage of images up to the present time and then stops at the year 2055: the world is void of people. Sydney, Australia is on fire. Las Vegas, Nevada is underneath sand. There is no snow on the mountain ranges, tremendous flooding everywhere, and no ice in the Arctic. The film then brings us to the Global Archive, a large steel structure in the middle of the sea, north of Norway. The Global Archive houses all the artwork, preserved animals, books and scientific journals as the surviving artifacts from the human race. As the last human on Earth, the archivist asks the question, ‘Could we have done something to stop this when we had the chance?’

The documentary part of the film follows six main people in different parts of the world: the entrepreneur opening a low-cost airline in India, the mountain guide in the Alps, a retired geologist who worked on an oil rig and was affected by Hurricane Katrina, kids in Jordan affected by the Iraq War, a young woman in Nigeria who would like to be a medical doctor, and a wind farm engineer in England.

A large part of the film focuses on oil. It explains how oil is formed and how it has affected three out of the six people in the documentary. There is a mention of how oil led to the Iraq War (including a video montage of past wars over resources), and then tells the story about how the father of the kids in Jordan was killed by the Americans, and how the family fled to Jordan. Oil also affected the young woman in Nigeria, as Shell was trying to claim land there for their business and the military there took extreme measures to clear out villages. And of course, the man in New Orleans who made his living trying to find oil and saw the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

The only person in the film who talked about climate science was Mark Lynas: British author, journalist and environmental activist. He speaks of the worst case scenario of a 2°C increase in temperature, and the possibility of stabilizing the atmosphere within 7 years. He hand draws a graph on a piece of paper of temperature rise versus stabilization, stating that if we decrease emissions now, surface temperatures could decrease beginning as soon as 2015.

The film showed a small section of the ‘Keeling curve’ from the Mauna Loa Observatory of how CO2 concentrations have been steadily increasing. However, they did not explain what this graph was, instead just showed a small section with a mouse being dragged over it, following the rising trend. The subject of retreating glaciers is addressed with the mountain guide in the French Alps. He leads an English family (the wind engineer, his wife and kids) climbing around the glaciers, and states that the glaciers have retreated 150 meters since 1945. He mentions how they recently had to add another section of the ladder in order to reach the glacier.

The ending of the film features the archivist asking again, “Why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance? Because we didn’t think we were worth saving?” And then the camera zooms out to a view of the Earth with the caption: ‘The End?’

-- Provided to ClimateChangeEducation.Org by a graduate student in
climate sciences at the University of California who attended the United States theater debut in May of 2009.
Written to facilitate reviews and discussion on the film following the San Francisco International Fim Festival Screenings.

Summaries of The Age of Stupid
Provided by graduate students specializing in
climate change science who attended the May 2009 U.S. premier.
Synopsis submitted by student from:
Stanford University       University of California

Two films on climate change, co-presented by
SFIFF and Climate Change Education .Org,
in May of 2009:

Age of Stupid [North American Premier]
A Sea Change [West Coast Debut]

Age of Stupid U.S. Theater Premier -- May 2009:  
Who Was There    Reviews    Photos   

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