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Modern Times: Box-office bomb

When news emerged that Richard Curtis, director of 'Love Actually' and 'Notting Hill', had agreed to make an advert for the 10:10 campaign to cut carbon emissions, it seemed like an inspired choice. Until he made it. Instead of soft-focus arty shots, the public got blood, gore and exploding children. In this week's Modern Times, Corin Faife examines the causes, and repercussions, of an unnecessary fiasco.

Modern Times, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 8:53 - 1 Comment

By Corin Faife

You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the people at the 10:10 campaign. First they secure a big name director in the form of Richard Curtis (he of Notting Hill, Love Actually and Blackadder fame) to make a promotional advertisement for them. Then a bunch of stars agree to appear in it, waiving all of their usual fees for the cause. Then, Curtis and a 40-strong crew produce a humourous short film which involves an exploding David Ginola. And just when you thought it was too good to be true, the film gets immediately pulled on launch after an outraged backlash against it.

Unfortunately the furore was entirely predictable, and someone at a far earlier stage of production should have found the courage to tell Mr. Curtis that an environmental campaign which opens with a vignette of schoolchildren being detonated by their teacher would be unlikely to pass unchallenged in today’s social climate. The monopolisation of moral outrage by the tabloid right, the continued association of the environmental movement with the radical left, and the persistence of the poisonous insinuation that climate change is a ploy by liberal intellectual élites to reign in the recreational pursuits of the working classes, coalesced into a perfect storm of unfavourable conditions which proved too much for the film to weather.

Granted, subsequent YouTube uploads did gain considerable views through viral distribution, clearly the mark of a certain kind of success. Unfortunately though, in trying to win over new converts to the cause the director has played straight into the hands of the climate change deniers’ movement, as it’s that much harder to defend against charges of “eco-fascism” in the face of a video which shows the summary execution of dissenters.

That said, given the seriousness of the threat to the future of the Earth as we know it there may be more than a few amongst us who have turned an idle thought to dealing with sceptics in a similarly explosive manner. Though there might not be any big red button on hand to trigger the blast, the small number of businessmen, academics and media strategists who have succeeded in presenting the overwhelming consensus on anthropogenic climate change within the scientific community as an inconclusive argument between believers and sceptics have far more blood on their hands than Curtis showed on-screen.

It is overwhelmingly the poorest in the world, and of those, disproportionately children, who will bear the brunt of the effects as sea levels rise, harvests become less reliable and tropical diseases spread to previously unaffected zones, whilst the blood of many children and adults alike is sure to be spilled in conflicts over ever-scarcer resources, events which are set to be a geo-political fixture of the 21st Century.

It’s a shame that the 10:10 campaign’s recent ad spot was so ill-judged because their operation has otherwise been a beacon of media-savvy activism. Of course there’s a limit to the efficacy of calling for 10 percent emission cuts without challenging the more fundamental causes of unsustainability, but as a popular movement it’s a promising start, without which we’ll find ourselves in serious trouble.

Let’s hope the same drive to create edgy and headline-grabbing campaigns can produce something a little more palatable in future though: we need to get everyone on board if we’re going to keep ourselves afloat.

Corin Faife is a writer and activist. His ‘Modern Times’ column appears every Tuesday.

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Oct 12, 2010 11:37

I’m minded to think that 10:10 is actually a bad thing because it encourages the belief that 10% is anywhere near enough to stop runaway climate change.

I would rather people accept that our civilisation is doomed than think that they’re “doing their bit to save the planet” by switching to fluorescent lightbulbs!

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