Feeling hopeless

Date 19th Nov 2015

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Hello friends, family, colleagues and no doubt a few spies, 

Firstly, the good news: Lizzie welcomed her baby girl, Cleo, to the world in June. So the next generation of Spanner Films now stands at four so-perfectly-spaced-you’d-think-we’d-planned-it offspring: Lizzie’s Leila (5), my Eva (3.5), my Zac (2) and Lizzie’s Cleo (0.5). Three of the four parents concerned are 100% convinced that this is the final line-up.

Eva and Zac in front of my sister, Boo’s, blue plaque in Camden, unveiled on October 10th - and Lizzie with her daughters Leila and newborn Cleo 

In other great news, 350.org have only gone and stopped the Keystone XL pipeline. Here’s the inside story of how this “startlingly successful grassroots activist campaign defied the odds and convinced the Obama administration to change course against building a major piece of fossil fuel infrastructure”. And their campaign to persuade everybody to take their money out of fossil fuels is also going from strength to strength. 

So it’s not all bad. Though it is mainly very bad indeed. 

It’s not the done thing in protest movements to admit to hopelessness, but, even for a natural-born optimist like myself, it’s hard to see many positive chinks of light to head towards at the moment. The Paris climate talks - the next big UN “COP” meeting after 2009’s Copenhagen washout - start in a couple of weeks and it’s just been announced that the main public demonstration has, understandably, been cancelled. This article in the New Internationalist summarises the situation better than I can: ”The COP process over the past 20 years has overseen a worsening of the climate crisis and a rise rather than reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the war on terror has led to more terror – in Beirut and Baghdad as well as Paris – and to a refugee crisis that leaves dead bodies washing up on Europe's shores. The same logic underlies both of these failures. A logic of maintaining the status quo, of protecting our economic interests at all costs, of ignoring the historical and current ways in which the West is deeply implicated in the root causes of the problem. In this moment of fear and uncertainty, of multiple crises sweeping the globe, a movement for justice, equality, anti-oppression, for a liveable planet and for a change to the system based on greed and exploitation is ever more needed. Now is not the time to stay silent."

Hear hear.

But I find it disturbing that I seem to be less motivated to fight climate change now that I have my own children. I'd have thought it'd be the opposite: five years ago I wanted this planet to remain habitable for human life in general, now I want it to remain habitable for human life in particular, no? I suspect that if only I could find the time between nappies, scripts and diggers (see below) to read George Marshall’s new book “Don’t Even Think About It - why our brains are wired to ignore climate change”, I’d discover there's a straightforward psychological explanation. Till then, I’ll foist my own unfounded theories on you: the day-to-day minutiae of keeping offspring alive, clean, fed and tickled saps 95% of available energy, and 95% of brain space, whilst simultaneously decreasing that last 5% of brain power (how many more years does “baby brain” last?). Each day I fully intend to join the revolution once the two kids have conked out, but each evening find myself in an incoherent heap in front of the X-Factor come 9pm. Then there’s the extremely slippery over-consumption slope: once you start acquiring loads more stuff, which seems to be inevitable even with the help of the Ultimate Guide To Green Parenting, then the next thing you know you’ve got two cars and your very own landfill site of broken Peppa Pigs.

On top of that is my own guilt about feeling I screwed up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn 10:10 into one of those self-replicating, world-changing ideas on the scale of, say, Fair Trade. Guilt that is so far not motivating me into further climate action. I’m not fishing for reassurance here, honestly, just trying to understand what catalyses action and what doesn’t... really must get round to reading George's book... oh, whilst looking for the link, I found these videos about the book- that’ll be quicker than reading - and this really funny video on the same subject.

After the disappointment of 10:10, my partner, Adam, and I thought we should re-group and (literally) get our own house in order. So we've knocked down our eco-nightmare (asbestos, damp, drafts, oil) and are busy building (well, watching the builders build) a new passivhaus, complete with no central heating (eek! in Devon!), rainwater recycling, solar panels, homegrown timber etc etc. But all the eco features can never be as exciting as the slide built into the stairs or the crawl net instead of banisters… for the kids, I mean, for the kids. 

Here's a picture of the new Spanner Films office, in the basement of our house-to-be. Reckon we’re going to make some world-changing documentaries from that muddy puddle??

Interestingly, not a penny of the money for the build has come from my filmmaking: it’s half new debt and half “winnings” on the fucked-up London property market. Kind-of depressing that I’ve been doing this changing-the-world-through-films stuff for 21 years (21 years!) and have only just about carved out a living wage. And I was dismayed to read the other day that my documentary hero Kim Longinotto, who has just been awarded the Grierson Trustee Award in recognition of her enormous contribution to the genre throughout her 30-year career, has never been able to afford to buy her own home. FFS. If the Jonah Lamu of docs can’t have a decent standard of living, how the hell are all the up-and-coming filmmakers supposed to even survive? Depressing answer: only the richest young people will be able to afford to do this in future, and so only their ideas will spread.

Then again, am I really surprised that the system does not help propagate system-changing ideas? Hey, I know! Let’s crowd-fund independent films! Let’s invent new forms of distribution! Then we can get other ideas out there! Who’s in?!?



->  Help the Calais refugees
Life in the “jungle” refugee camp in Calais gets ever harder now that winter is closing in on the refugees, most of whom are from hot countries. The most urgent needs are: 1) pre-made identical food parcels, 2) volunteers, especially those who can stay for three or more days, 3) blankets, 4) sleeping bags and 5) tents. All the info about how you can help is here

-> Join the Global Climate march on November 29th and during COP21
The ever-brilliant 350.org have a great page summarising how to get involved wherever you are in the world here

->  Organise a screening of Age of Stupid or other climate films
If you are infuriated by your community's lack of response to climate change, one tactic is to organise a screening of a climate film. That way your friends and family don’t feel under attack from you personally, but you get to raise the issues - and eat cake.  So we’ve cut the license fee for holding a screening of Age of Stupid by 50%.  Anyone anywhere can organise a screening and keep the profits for themselves or for their campaign. The license fee is set by a sliding scale, depending on who/what/where your screening will be. For example, the charge to a local campaign group for a screening in a cafe for between 20 and 50 people is now £48.91. So if you charged £5 for tickets, you'd make £201.09. Info and booking here: http://www.indiescreenings.net

NB Next week we’ll be sending a joint email with other climate filmmakers encouraging screenings of lots of different films in the run up to the Paris Climate Summit. 

-> Get everyone you know to watch Age of Stupid for free on YouTube
Big thanks to everyone who sent very helpful and considered reasons a couple of months back about whether or not we should put our films up on YouTube for free. After a lot of thought, we have decided to do exactly that. So McLibel is here, Drowned Out is here and Age of Stupid is here. Please subscribe to our spruced-up YouTube channel and forward these links to any of your friends who haven’t seen Stupid. (Where have they been all their lives?)

-> Get nostalgic with the Stupid Show
Whilst sorting our YouTube channel, I got hooked on the daily live web show, The Stupid Show, you might remember we produced at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. I’ve compiled a “best of” playlist here, including our rather brilliant (credit to Dan Vockins for thinking of it) rhyming interview series: On My Head with Ed, Toe To Toe With Monbiot, Drinking Wine With Naomi Klein, Wearing Tweed With Mohammed Nasheed etc. The live underwater skype link to a coral reef was rather wonderful too. 

I don’t suppose anyone’s heard of anyone doing a similar live show from the Paris talks?

The Stupid Show: On My Head With Ed

->  Tweet your message into the Mosaic Earth
My Dad and step-mum's new campaign, Mosaic Earth is creating a beautiful image of the globe made up of individual messages “from parents to presidents: each expressing their longing to protect life on Earth, showing us what stirs them so deeply. What is at stake, for each of us and for all of us, as the planet warms and the oceans acidify? Earth-empathy, if you like.” To add your message, tweet with the hashtag #1of7billion

-> Buy good Christmas presents #1: Age of Stupid DVDs
The Spanner Films boxset is still the best eco-Christmas gift out there… and the cash goes to our crowd-funders, and hence to proving that crowd-funding can work as a model, thereby inspiring more funding of good works.

-> Buy good Christmas presents #2: hats and gloves for refugees
Unicef have finally updated the “buy a goat for Christmas” idea, so now people who can’t bear to buy plastic tat for their relatives can instead sponsor “hats and gloves for four Syrian children”.

- - -  

Our getting-political-dramas-onto-TV guru, Tony Garnett, said to Lizzie and me the other day that when times are very bleak, sometimes all you can do is keep ideas alive. Which is pretty much why we're channelling our working lives and creative energies into UNDERCOVERS at the moment. More news on that front soon. 

And finally… if I had to pick which of my friends would be least likely to jack in life as he’s known it (moseying down to the British Library to drink coffee and write a few more pages of another maybe-novel) to move to Greece to spend his nights literally pulling refugees out of the sea with his bare hands, I would pick Tim Tzouliadis. But that’s exactly what he’s done. I’ve copied a few of his eye-opening tweets below and you can follow him on twitter here.

Onwards we go,