Sustainable UNH

Learning about sustainability through the example of UNH

The Age of Stupid

November 6th, 2012 · No Comments

This post was written while watching the movie “The Age of Stupid”. A film that looks at climate change from the year 2055. It creatively portrays actor Pete Postelthwaite as a man in the future going through a digital archive of videos related to climate change that happened in the “past”, or what is now our present day.

At the same time, some family members and college friends in New York are living in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. After the storm itself, the situation got progressively worse as gas tanks became lose. Five houses have exploded in Freeport, Long Island. Communications with them have conjured images of an apocalyptic world, usually described in context of thousands of years from now.

Despite all of this, the mainstream media refuses to actually use the words climate change. Worse, it’s not accepted by many as scientific fact, but viewed as a theory or belief system, and hasn’t even been debated heavily in the current presidential election. Only recently have headlines emerged about climate change and it’s lack of attention in politics.

As “The Age of Stupid” showed more and more footage of climate change evidence: Nigeria and its destruction from a growing oil business, Katrina in 2005; I couldn’t help but thing that this is not a message to be shown so small groups on campus, but rather on primetime cable TV. Every person should be aware of the point being made here: that there IS a BIG problem; not the theory of an issue, or a natural cycle of the earth, but a crisis; and collectively we are doing nothing about it.

In my lifetime, flooding and natural disasters have become more frequent, almost to the point of “the new normal”. In 2005, Katrina hit New Orleans and floods destroyed western New Hampshire. In 2008, an ice storm shut everything down for days. In 2011 Irene slammed not Florida, but Vermont. Vermont! A hurricane destroyed roads and houses in a landlocked, northeast state! And now in 2012, after a winter that saw barely any snow and a summer of drought, Sandy hit the east coast. And those are just the ones that affected me in the northeast, say nothing of the dozens of other examples from around the globe.
When will change on a global scale start to happen? How many more cities need to be flooded every year? Did The Big Apple getting hit get the point across? A headline on the fake news website The Onion got part of the message through: “Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be a Thing That Happens From Now On”. It may be written in satire, but larger point they’re making is quite serious. Whether as a nation, and a global community we will 1: accept that it will continue to happen and 2. Recognize we can take steps to prevent it, remains to be seen. There are still many obstacles in our path, and one of the biggest is a widespread silence that climate change is real.

The world today is a population that doesn’t want wind turbines because it ruins the view and causes some noise. A few years ago Stephen Colbert did a bit on a new compostable bag made for Sun Chips, a Frito-Lay brand, owned by PepsiCo. The bag was a step towards reducing the huge amount of waste from food and food packaging in the United States. But they stopped making them after too many customers wrote in to complain about the noise level. After an unknown amount of money spent to research decibel levels of a chip bag, the company has released a quieter bag for only one flavor of Sun Chips, to make sure their customers are not dissatisfied again.
Americans, the largest consumers on the planet, need to wake up. We are blocking progress because we don’t like the noise a snack bag makes. We can accept the nuclear power plant that is an eyesore in the community, but won’t let in wind turbines because it ruins the view. Everyone can generally agree that oil will run out someday, but asking them to be a part of the change becomes a “not in my back yard” fight. We are essentially telling the younger generations, and I include myself in that category that we don’t care about their future or how many resources they will or will not have. We can no longer keep passing our problems on to the next generation; it’s that type of thinking that got us here in the first place.

So I am happy to see a movie titled “The Age of Stupid”; if we are motivated enough to complain about the noise our chip bags make, but not motivated enough to begin making change and pursuing alternative energies on a large scale, then we deserve this designation. We should be living in an age of innovation, of great progress beyond the advancement of the iPhone; but in so many ways, we truly are living in The Age of Stupid.

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