The 10:10 campaign, which urges people to make changes to their lifestyle in order to cut their carbon emissions by 10%, has got themselves into a bit of trouble.
They commissioned a short film to promote their campaign, but yesterday were forced to pull it almost as soon as they’d released it after they realised it had the potentially to massively backfire and piss off a whole lot of people. To their credit, they’ve apologised fully and accepted they’d made a mistake. But this piece is about why it would get made in the first place, and the kind of thinking that underlines it. Check it out below:
Apparently the idea behind this was to be funny and edgy, and to be fair anywhere I’ve seen it being discussed the reaction has been really mixed. Personally I thought it was horrible, and potentially disastrous towards the climate movement. The message according to the filmakers was to “challenge apathy”:
“We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change,” said one of the creators, filmmaker Franny Armstrong.
The reason I hate this film is because it’s more of what absolutely has not and will not prevent climate catastrophe: personally guilt tripping individuals, so that we all feel personally responsible and shamed about a massive global problem over which we feel we have little control. What I took away from the film is that if you don’t support the 10:10 campaign you are basically an insensitive bastard who deserves to be blown up. The title of the film is ‘No Pressure,’ which is where the joke lies, because in fact the whole point is that you feel massively under pressure to do something. What else are we to take away from Agent Scully’s menacing repeat of the “No pressure” tagline at the end? (And shouldn’t you be telling Mulder his crazy theory is wrong when it’s clearly right?)
Climate change is a massive global crisis. It’s a crisis that’s resulted from an unsustainable socio-economic model which sacrifices the long term survival of civilisation in favour of the short term enrichment of a tiny minority of the human race, i.e. capitalism. As individuals there’s very little we can do about this. Yes, by all means change your lightbulb (my flat is illuminated by them, because they save you money!) and do your recycling. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things, and you are doing something that’s socially responsible. But the fact is that it simply isn’t going to cut it in the face of climate emergency. As isolated individuals we have little power. The power to do something about climate change comes from collective action as part of a mass movement. And this film will not motivate people to create or take part in such a movement.
The Alberta Tar Sands from space: changing your lightbulb is totally the way to go though
Guilt is a crap motivator. A lot of the environmental movement seems to approach the crisis we face as a species as if it was the result of personal sin and what was needed was a good Calvinist cleansing. Some people will respond to the kind of pressure applied to them by this film, but the vast majority will turn off, look away and react negatively. They have, correctly, concluded that they can’t prevent climate change through individual action.
One one level, I don’t want to just be knocking people who apparently donated their time and skills to try and do something about climate change. But unfortunately, this was a typical, middle class, individualist approach to a social problem. The writer of the film is the god awful Richard Curtis, also responsible for such unwatchable toss as ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Notting Hill.’ He also is one of the co-founders of Comic Relief, a “national institution” that has always done my head in. Similarly to this campaign, the message of his previous charity efforts has been to parade misery and suffering before you, in an effort to get you to give up some of your income, or feel really shitty about yourself if you don’t/can’t afford it. As one astute commenter on the Guardian put it:
“The upper middle class patronising the working class. Now with edge.“
Or as another suggested:
“It’s like a parody of something people mocking enviros would do.”
Which basically sums up the heart of my problem with it: it will turn people off, and yet again see those of us who want to prevent the worst of climate disaster as preachy, irrelevant wanks. It is in fact a gift to the worst enemies of humanity today, the climate change deniers and their backers in the fossil fuel industry. Armstrong said (as part of the rapid backtracking operation):
“Richard Curtis wrote what I thought was a funny and satirical tongue-in-cheek little film in the over-the-top style of Monty Python or South Park.”
In fact it did remind me of South Park, like the episodes where they mock Earth Day or more pertinently the one about ‘Smug’:
The main charity backer of the ad was ActionAid, who are most well known for their ‘Sponsor a Child’ ads which guilt tripping you into feeling you individually can overcome the results of global poverty, inequality and imperialism by setting up a direct debit. They’re a good example of how a well meaning NGO can actually end up doing more harm than good, particularly when you look at some of the cover they’ve given for US imperialism in Haiti.
The fact is, the strategy of mainstream NGOs, which consists of loading up individuals with guilt and insider lobbying of governments, has failed. If governments and big business were going to sort out the climate emergency, they would have done it already – the facts have been plain for decades, and the world’s leaders have been flying around to talk to each other about it for 20 odd years with no concrete results. Liberal, middle class hand wringing isn’t enough any more, and in fact NGOs are in some ways acting as a block towards us seeing the real extent of the crisis, and how far we need to transform our society to avert it.
We need, as quickly as possible, to put together a mass movement of the majority of the world’s poor and working people to transform our society and stop the dominant social system from taking us all to the brink of apocalypse. We’re not going to be able to build mass support by telling people it’s their fault, and if they’re not taking tokenistic individual action then we’ll blow them up.