If you put yeast into a jar with some sugar, they will gobble up the energy as quickly as possible, reproduce wildly out of control and then wipe themselves out in their own waste products.
So far, our collective response to climate change has been of the yeast variety. All the talking, all the documentaries, all the international negotiations have resulted in a net achievement of less than nothing: global emissions just keep going up and up.
As Pete Postlethwaite's character says in our, er, documentary, The Age of Stupid, "We wouldn't be the first life form to wipe itself out. But what would be unique about us is that we did it knowingly." And there's the crux of it. We are the most intelligent creature ever to evolve and yet we are about to make the stupidest mistake in all of geological time. Hence the film's name.
So, what to do?
Clearly we should have started tackling the problem as soon as the seriousness was understood, back in the '80s. But given that we didn't and we are where we are, we must now come together to agree a binding international treaty which quickly and massively cuts total global emissions. Our last chance to agree this treaty within the timescale of the physics of the planet is at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December this year. It is being called "the most important meeting in human history" for good reason.
Obviously the treaty isn't just made up on the spot, they've been working on it for years. The best deal currently on the table is that from the EU, but even this would only give us about a 50/50 chance of not hitting the dreaded two degrees. Two degrees is where we trigger runaway climate change: two leads to three, three to four, four to five, five to six ... by which time it's about over for most of life on Earth.
In other words, our elected leaders are giving us -- at best -- a coin-flip chance of avoiding catastrophe. It is hard to think of a more total failing of our political system. Imagine if they were standing at a plane door ... "Come on citizens, please take your seats, 50/50 chance of landing safely... "
And this is the EU's position. If America wins the argument at Copenhagen we will have pretty much no chance of avoiding two degrees.
All of which means that we non-politician human beings who depend on the climate remaining habitable had best jump into action. We are launching The Age of Stupid on September 21st from a solar-powered cinema tent in New York, linked by satellite to 444 cinemas across America - plus 300 cinemas in 45 countries from France and Finland to Argentina and Indonesia. (Full list of participating cinemas here). The date is not coincidental: about a hundred Heads of State will be in New York for the UN General Assembly and we have joined forces with groups such as Greenpeace, tcktcktck and Avaaz, who are calling for 21st September to be the Global Wake Up call. The day the world finally wakes up to the desperate urgency of the climate crisis.
The solar-powered green-carpet event will feature contributions from Kofi Annan, Gillian Anderson, Moby, James Hansen, Mary Robinson and the star of the film, Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite. Plus there will be live music from Radiohead's Thom Yorke and satellite link-ups to scientists at a melting glacier in the Himalayas and a rainforest in Indonesia. The evening will conclude with the international launch of Stupid's solution to the climate crisis: 10:10.
I was born in the '70s as part of the MTV generation who were told by a squillion adverts that the point of our existence was to shop more. Daunting though the task ahead may be, I feel enormously inspired and quite relieved that it turns out that we have something important to do. The people who came before us didn't know about climate change and the ones who come after will be powerless to stop it. So it's down to us. Other generations came together to overturn slavery or end apartheid or win the vote for women. There is nothing intrinsically more useless about our generation and there is no doubt about what we have to do. The only question which remains is whether or not we give it a go.