Seventy days before the international climate summit in Copenhagen, hundreds of government officials and business leaders met in New York City on Monday to kick off Climate Week. On Tuesday, President Obama affirmed his commitment to action when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Climate Summit. Despite delays in passing a cap-and-trade bill, Obama highlighted U.S. efforts to curb climate change over the past year, including stimulus investments in renewable energy and efficiency, extension of tax credits for renewable energy, new automobile emissions standards and partnerships with other major emitters like China and India. Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones reports that Obama pledged to also address climate change with other leaders at G20 meetings later in the week.
Michelle Chen of Air America was frustrated with Obama’s speech, and felt that it did little to motivate Congress or leaders of other countries to take responsibility and act. “Despite Obama’s speech—and a pledge from Chinese President Hu Jintao on moving China toward a more sustainable energy system—overall, the planetary meltdown has drawn a lukewarm response from the biggest polluters,” writes Chen.
Since U.S. commitment is considered key to success in Copenhagen, many are concerned how climate change negotiations will proceed. The “first steps” that Obama outlined will not suffice, and the leading emitters must be accountable for their emissions. Climate change has already begun to rear its ugly head. Dangerously high sea levels are threatening Pacific Island nations.
Activists from all over the world participated in Climate Week through demonstrations, rallies and flash mobs. Yes! Magazine features a photo essay illustrating over 2,600 demonstrations in 134 countries that “urge their politicians to ‘wake up’ to the threat of climate change and to create a fair, aggressive, and binding treaty during the final set of international negotiations in Copenhagen this December.”
In hopes of strengthening international negotiations and raising public awareness, a new film, The Age of Stupid, premiered in 63 countries on Monday and Tuesday, marking one of the largest simultaneous screenings in history. Jeffrey Allen of OneWorld US writes that the film stresses the grave consequences of unchecked climate change. The U.K. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, said that the documentary is “an incredibly powerful account of the effects of climate change, the urgency of climate change, and the reasons we must act as quickly as possible.”
In an interview with Grist’s Ashely Braun, the film’s director, Franny Armstrong, says she hopes the film will rouse people to action. By setting the film in the future, The Age of Stupid shows the ramifications of inaction today. Armstrong hopes that the film reaches 250 million viewers before Copenhagen, who in turn could pressure their politicians to create strong treaties and plans of action at the global conference.
Another recent eco-doc, The Garden, tells the compelling story of the country’s largest urban farm in South Central Los Angeles. As Sara Barz notes for Grist, the farmers continue to fight for their right to grow food in the community garden despite two eviction notices, numerous court proceedings, allegations of corruption, an assault charge and having to raise $16 million. “There simply isn’t a better case study for budding community-garden activists,” Barz writes.
But a film approach to environmental activism is nothing new. Following Al Gore’s 2006 eye-opener, An Inconvenient Truth, a surge of eco-documentaries have flooded the media. Andrew O’Hehir of Salon explains that the eco-documentaries “all represent the tip of an extremely large iceberg, and reflect the fact that environmentalism has become a mass-scale, grass-roots-based movement that can’t be controlled by politicians, policy wonks or talking heads.”
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The Age of Stupid Media kit
By Raquel Brown, Media Consortium