Students discuss living in ‘The Age of Stupid’


The office of campus sustainability held a screening of the documentary “The Age of Stupid” last Monday in Langseth. Though it is a documentary, the film begins in 2055 in a world that ignored climate change.

The video shows scenes like the Sydney Opera House abandoned and burning and the Las Vegas sign mostly buried in a sand dune.

An image of a tower is shown, looking similar to the Space Needle in Seattle, called the global archive. The audience is told this is a storage facility containing artwork from national museums, pickled animals

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

and a copy of every film, book and song produced in human history.

The audience is then introduced to Pete Postlethwaite, who plays the curator and sole inhabitant of the makeshift museum. The story of how the earth came to be a desolate and deserted place in 2055 is told in the form of his video log. Throughout the documentary, Postlethwaite pulls up old clips from newscasts foreshadowing the impending doom.

The video goes into some detail about the harm of emissions caused by transporting goods. One striking fact the film cites is that for every calorie a person eats, it takes 100 oil calories to transport, package and produce it. Also discussed is the problem of consumerism and the strong hold oil companies have on politics. “Oil companies are not just in bed with the government, they are the government,” the film states.

Produced in 2009, “The Age of Stupid” places the tipping point of climate change in the year 2015, just one year from now.

Mark Lynas, author of “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet” has a small part in the documentary. He explains that an increase of two degrees is extremely dangerous and should be alarming. With a six-degree increase, all life on earth would be wiped out. Lynas says 2015 is the tipping point because the world temperature must stabilize by then, or it will be too late to save the world as it is today. Stopping climate change is the “greatest task humanity has ever faced,” Lynas said.

After presenting all the facts and calling for both the actions of people and politicians of the world, Postlethwaite mused, “We wouldn’t be the first life form to wipe ourselves out. The only unique thing is that we did it knowingly. What does that say about us?”

The end of the documentary counts up the years, from 2015 to 2055, coupled with made up but possible occurrences that could take place if nothing is done about climate change. Postlethwaite signs off from his video log, the screen goes black and reads “The End?”

At the conclusion, Joe Herbst, sustainability coordinator, headed a short discussion for those who attended.

Herbst said he heard about the movie from a student and, after watching it himself, thought it would be a beneficial film to show to students.

The discussion began when Herbst posed the question of how to “not be one of the biggest contributors to the age of stupid.” Students responded with reducing consumption or opting to shop at thrift stores instead of buying new. Buying things that are not wrapped in plastic or other oil based products was also mentioned.

Herbst agreed with the students, but brought up the point that it is hard to change habits. “Consumerism is systematic,” he said. “Buying stuff is a reward for earning money. Ultimately, it’s just the way we are set up. Until the evidence is in our face, it’s hard to make these changes.”

To further explain his point, Herbst brought up a recent trip he took. He found himself stuck in Houston for a day after a flight delay. Looking for something to do, he said it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without having to drive. He added this is mostly the case in Fargo-Moorhead as well.

Previously, highways were something to be proud of. They represented progress. Herbst asked the audience if any of them did not have a car. Only one student raised his hand, but even he said the only efficient way to get around was to ask for a ride. This poll proved Herbst’s point perfectly. There is no real efficient way to get from Fargo to Moorhead or vice versa without using a car or bus. What was once seen as progress is now hindering progress to be more efficient.

“It’s a reality we don’t want to believe,” Herbst said. He explained one of the best ways to initiate change is to “teach younger generations a new way of life. Change habits to enact change.”

The office of campus sustainability will be holding a special event to screen other films on Earth Day, April 22, in Langseth.

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