Age of Stupid: Environmentalism Is Alive and Well

Director and Producer Franny and Lizzie arrive by boat to the NY premier. Seriously.
Director and Producer Franny and Lizzie arrive by boat at the NY premier of their documentary, the Age of Stupid.

Editor’s Note: This post was published on the Huffington Post earlier today.

On Monday night, I participated in the world’s largest movie premier, for a documentary. The film, called the Age of Stupid has been hailed as the future of film, and criticized by 3p’s own Nick Aster for its depressing take on the state of our planet’s climate. I believe, however, that the film was revolutionary for slightly different reasons. Age of Stupid reveals that environmentalism is alive, well, and going mainstream. Even more, the film shows that our current consumer lifestyles are fundamentally incompatible with the reality of our climate situation. Either we convince our governments to intervene and take control, or prepare for the worst, as we waste time celebrating recycling our plastic water bottles.

A film about our last warnings is itself that warning

The film was harsh, there is no question about that. In the Age of Stupid, the planet and human race has been destroyed. The film’s narrator, Pete Postlethwaite, reviews clips of Hurricane Katrina, melting glaciers, in disbelief that we had been so distracted by our pursuit of growth that we ignored our only chance to avoid literal suicide. The Age of Stupid itself is that warning.

The film’s premiere came up a bit short with its MTV VJ host, Gideon Yago and celebrities who arrived by rowboat to walk down the green carpet made from recycled bottles. But, beneath the amateur mistakes of the fresh-out-of-the-theater Hollywood environmentalists, is a movement. In fact, contrary to sustainability poster boy Adam Werbach’s vocal position in 2005, environmentalism is alive, well, and going mainstream.

As a film that was largely funded by its fans, it is, itself, the product of activism. And guess what? Watching this film might be like watching a depressing version of Sesame Street for all us old school environmentalists, but we don’t speak the language of the mainstream anymore. While we are composting in our San Francisco homes, the rest of the world is celebrating recycling their plastic water bottles. And this movie finally told them that plastic water bottles take 800 times more energy for water that is zero times healthier. Age of Stupid finally reveals that we’re still screwed, even if we drive Priuses and buy organic food and less toxic home cleaning products. Either we completely reinvent the way we live, or the fat lady sings. And she is warming up in back room.

Is Wall St. fundamentally incompatible with our climate situation?

The reason for mentioning Adam Werbach above is not because I like to pick on him. I tend to agree with him that it is businesses and their tremendous influences on our lives and governments’ policies that hold the key to driving real change. This holds especially true when the government in question is too slow and conflicted to lead us along the right path. But Age of Stupid reveals that our consumer lifestyles and and our distraction with Wall Street’s measure of wealth may be only be a red herring. Our stock markets could recover, but they don’t measure the ultimate health and well-being of our society. As they exist today, it could be quite the opposite.

As brilliantly shown in the film, we have two choices. Our arguably conflicted governments introduce strict policies that limit and reverse our accelerating contributions to irreversible climate conditions, or we fundamentally reinvent the ways Wall Street measures its performance. We simply cannot afford to rely on the current incremental approach to buying “greener” stuff. The problem is the stuff. Yet, our economy will succeed. We will succeed. But we are not in a recession. We are in a transition. And it all starts with a wake up call like this one.

Ryan Mickle is one of the partners and pundits behind 3p. He is a consultant, speaker, and passionate advocate for transparency, values-driven business, and empowering "consumers" to become evangelists in our new, decentralized media landscape. Ryan holds a BA in Economics from Berkeley, and he loves traveling, running marathons (love may be too strong a word), yoga, and contributing to the gross national happiness (GNH) in business and otherwise.

9 responses

  1. Can’t wait to see the film, but my guess is that it will come out on a non-biodegradable plastic disc. I’m glad that environmentalism is going main stream. The only way were going to reduce the negative impact we humans have on our planet is for each of us to become to one degree or another, environmentalist.
    There are no perfect answers to solving our pollution problems, nor is there one magic bullet. Every decision we make and every product we manufacture will involve unintended consequences. Our company is an environmental company that decided to do something about plastic bottle pollution. We realized that 70% of plastic bottles weren’t recycled. Even plastic that is recycled will end up in a landfill or burned. Right now most recycled PET plastic is shipped to China where they burn most of it to produce electricity…… I mentioned there are unintended consequences to all decisions. I believe that one way of improving our environment is to design all products to be “Cradle to Cradle.” I also believe that we would be better off if consumers started demanding products and packaging to be more environmentally friendly. Having spent some time in Washington I’ve seen the influence that lobbyists have in formulating government policies and laws. I can see a lot of unintended consequences should the government have to mandate all environmental issues. Cradle to Cradle products require manufacturers to take responsibility for their products/packaging throughout the life cycle of their products. The idea behind cradle to cradle is to use resources to make something, reuse it, recycle it and when the useful life of a product is over, reclaim the resources or return them to the earth as a harmless substance.
    As an environmental company we realized that plastic bottles and containers weren’t going away anytime soon so we developed a biodegradable plastic bottle that can be recycled, reused (Wash between uses), and should a bottle find its way into a landfill, it will biodegrade in a microbial anaerobic or aerobic environment leaving behind biogases and humus. We believe that landfills should be designed to be a bio-reactor. Bio-Reactor landfills are designed to enhance biodegradation and capture landfill gasses which are used to produce clean energy.
    Is our approach the perfect answer…no. But we must start thinking cradle to cradle for everything we make, use or throw away. Consumer activism is, I believe, the answer…I’m glad to see more people becoming involved.

  2. Yes we have been in the age of stupid since about 1945. In fact the current “recycling” programs that the US is incorporating were developed by the Department of Defense in 1942.

    And as Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.”

    There is some hope but not much time.

    We at Inergy Plus Technologies, greatly reduce the carbon released into the atmosphere through many intersections with our own “low tech” technologies.

    Please feel free to ask questions. WE can help your community save money and air and water and land. It ain’t that hard to do.

    Larry Carlin

  3. “I tend to agree with [Adam Werbach] that it is businesses and their tremendous influences on our lives and governments’ policies that hold the key to driving real change. This holds especially true when the government in question is too slow and conflicted to lead us along the right path.” –Ryan Mickle

    I couldn’t agree more. I believe in the importance of the government’s role in change— but I’m not one who’s going to sit around and wait around for the government, either :0)

    That line also made me smile because I believe I am working for a company (Bon Appétit Management Company) that is actually trying to make real change with the power and influence they have), and I feel good being a part of that change.

    That said, Max’s comment isn’t off either. “Consumer activism is, I believe, the answer…” When companies don’t step up to the plate (which, of course, is rarely the case…), it’s up to consumers to put a little pressure on. So: awareness, awareness, awareness. I’d say well-written posts like this one do a nice job in aiding that process. So thanks, guys.

  4. Pingback: Ryan Mickle Blogs Here » iA Notebook » Environmentalism Is Alive and Well
  5. AL GORE is a rip off artist i wiuldnt waste my hard earned money oh any of his junk science ego-fest this jerk has a chip on his shoulder mostly that big block of wood on top of his neck

  6. Enviromentalists wackos are always pulling off stupid and idiotic stunts to call attention to their latest stupid ideas becuase their brains consist of leafmold and a flea or ant is more intellegent

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