Age of Stupid: Environmentalism is Alive and Well

11/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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 some 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. 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 Co-publisher of Triple Pundit and Founder of Companiesandme. You can follow Ryan and Triple Pundit on Twitter.