“It’s amazing,” the Archivist asks, “what state of mind were we in, to face extinction, and simply shrug it off?” He sits in a vast room, atop a tall tower—The Global Archive.
It is 2055 AD. The Earth’s ecosphere has been decimated by global warming. Small bands of humans roam the planet. The Archive is humanity’s memory.
The Age of Stupid is a hybrid movie —little fictional story containing a big documentary which, in turn, contains several little true stories.
The Archivist, played by the late British actor Pete Postlethwaite, sits in the bowels of his giant high-tech tower, 800 km north of Norway. Below is the melted Arctic Ocean. He is alone, looking at and through a large transparent computer display. We are on the other side, facing him.
This is his final blog, an obituary for humanity. He is about to send our story into the universe for whoever may find and benefit from it. But first he is reviewing a few human stories, from this time period, our time period, a few years before 2015, the year in which Earth’s rising temperatures must begin to reverse in order to prevent global environmental destruction.
The Archivist views stories about six people. Alvin Duvernay, a New Orleans-based paleontologist who worked 30 years for Shell Oil Company; Piers Guy, a wind-farm developer from the United Kingdom; Jeh Wadia, an Indian entrepreneur starting India’s third low-fare airline; Layeta Malemi, a Nigerian who dreams of becoming a doctor; Jamita Bayyoud, an 8-year old Iraqi refugee living with her brother in Jordan; and Fernand Pareau, an 82 year-old French mountain guide—who, as of the film’s release date, is still working.
At first glance one may wonder how this seeming non sequitur set of people figures into the potential destruction or saving of our ecosphere. As we learn about their experiences, thoughts, and actions it becomes clear, yet ethically complex.
Alvin Duvernay, for instance, has no regrets serving Shell Oil for 30 years, the same company that devastated Layeta Malemi’s village and its environment. Duvernay, if he had to do it over again, would work the exact same job. Yet he has become an environmentalist, extolling the virtues of nature, living a minimal carbon foot print. It is Duvernay who inadvertently utters the film’s title.
The richness and challenges of these people’s lives, the complexity of their ethics confront our own ethics and embolden our hearts as we are forced to yet again consider the Zen koan of what possible impact can our minute personal actions to reverse environmental destruction have in light of a massive global context.
In addition to the film’s documentary footage, the Archivist’s comments and some animation providing specific environmental information are peppered throughout the stories—cold comfort in a hot world.
The Age of Stupid was written and directed by Franny Armstrong, and produced over a period of four years. It is almost ten years since the film’s release date of 2009, and since the aforementioned 2015—the year in which we needed to have begun the reversal of global warming.
It is almost 2019. The opposite has occurred. The Republican take-over of the United State’s government has exacerbated global warming. But, we can rest in peace that the Archivist was able to send our story into the universe before The Global Archive’s destruction. Perhaps others will benefit from the lessons of our tragedy.