Pureland @ movie studio: “The Age of Stupid” Change through Practice

Date and time: 13:00-17:00 December 11, 2010
Instructor: Shang Neng-Chou, a teacher from the College of Environmental Studies of Dharma Drum University    Preparatory Office

The third round of the Pureland @ movie studio was held at the Wu Shi (無事) Lecture Hall on the sixth floor of the Dharma Drum Degui Academy building, in the afternoon on December 11. The workshop instructor was Shang Neng-Chou, a teacher from the College of Environmental Studies of Dharma Drum University Preparatory Office. The film shown at the workshop was The Age of Stupid, which features stories that illustrate how technology is being misused and how our living environment is being destroyed. These stories take the form of interweaving documentary segments that report the lives of contemporary people in the present, therefore seen as “the age of stupid” by the future world. In this film, the topic of concern is an ever-worsening environmental issue climate change and global warming.
A documentary film set in year 2055, The Age of Stupid predicts the situation of the Earth 45 years later, when the world is ravaged by catastrophic climate change: Las Vegas has been swallowed up by the desert; the Sydney Opera House is burning from the heat; Taj Mahal is like a dead city; north pole glaciers are melting and disappearing… In the film, the Global Archive is a storage facility located in the Arctic, where all human accomplishments and experience are kept, its purpose is that the fruition of human wisdom can be one day retrieved and utilized in the future when the Earth is once again a suitable living environment for humanity or extraterrestrial intelligence. The film stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man entrusted with the safekeeping of the archive, which includes the news reports and documentaries collected from 1950 to 2008, serving to explain what and why certain incidents in human history have gone wrong. When reviewing six archive footages recorded in 2008, the archivist simply asked, “Why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?”
The workshop began by watching the film. After showing the film, Shang Neng-Chou raised some concerning issues regarding the meaning and message of the film, and engaged the participants in discussion. Mr. Shang introduced by saying that, as many experts have predicted, in 45 years, or in around two generations’ time, our next generation and the generation after that will inevitably face this harsh environmental problem. Therefore, regarding the future development and direction, can individuals still stay on the side? Most important is what are we going to do next, when we’re already aware of these facts? Different from other environment films, The Age of Stupid does not provide any solutions, but the answers lie in the questions raised, which are meant for each audience’s further imagination and exploration. As far as environmental issues are concerned, most people seem to think that the current situations can’t be changed through a single person’s efforts, and therefore tend to be pessimistic. Although this is a fact, it is also something to reflect on.
With a professional background in environment engineering himself, the instructor Shang Neng-Chou introduced and explained to the participants about issues such as the current development of renewed energy and how it is approached in Taiwan, the features of the six kinds of greenhouse gases, the carbon emission and the goals of its reduction in different nations. Renewed energy refers to inexhaustible source of energy, such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, water energy, tidal energy, and biomass energy. The use of renewed energy represents the prerequisite for sustainable existence of the humanity in the world. However, the consumption of renewed energy still creates pollution or produces waste. So only when the waste is properly handled can sustainable existence be possible. In addition, if we address energy issues in terms of supply and demand, apart from exploring more sources of energy, more importantly is to cut down the consumption of energy. Mr. Shang mentioned that the whole Degui Academy building has been installed with power-efficient daylight tubes. Compared with the conventional daylight tubes, T8-44 and T5-28W for example, each power-efficient daylight tube can save up to 16 watts of electricity under the same brightness condition. However, it takes only one elevator ride to consume the electricity saved for a whole day with this installation. This is what people usually ignore when they are enjoying the convenience of a simple press of the button. People simply forget the whole idea of saving energy and reducing carbon emission once they step out of their home; only a minority of the people still concern about the issue. This is indeed absurd. As some participants pointed out, the water they manage to save up on their own may be used up by those big businesses in no time, which makes them feel quite helpless.
In Taiwan, the fight for environmental issues has always been a struggle between small groups of people, and also a struggle of morality that puts people in dilemma, where the majority of the people seem to belong to the “silent public” who are aware of the problem, but simply choose to do nothing about it. Take the hi-tech industry as an example, merchant foundries take up a rather big proportion of businesses in Taiwan, which has the highest density of 12-inch wafer manufacturers. While the industry has profited with their foundry services, the pollution created in the manufacturing process has been left in Taiwan. What makes the dilemma is that if these businesses are not staying in Taiwan, the ensuing problem will be much more serious, and the job-loss as a result will be hard for the government to deal with. So in the end, to choose the lesser of the two evils, the quality of the environment is compromised for the sake of the benefit of the majority. Under such a trend, the justice for the environment has been ignored. Therefore, in face of the issue of climate change, many western countries have carried out large-scale scientific research and study on climate change and environmental disasters. However, the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change still warn that the situation about climate change is hopeless, and the only thing we can do is to adjust and adapt to it at our best.
It may be a pessimistic situation. Nonetheless, the Protecting the Spiritual Environment campaign promoted by Master Sheng Yen was exactly meant to break through the current situation. Instead of relying the environment to protect humanity, it requires people to protect themselves through spirituality. When one keeps one’s spirituality from being polluted and destroyed and stops dealing with things in a short-term mindset, one will naturally consider other people around us and cherish the environment in which we live. By encouraging the participants to reflect and respond from within, the workshop sought to invite more dialogues and discussions, in the hope that people can change themselves and others through practice, and therefore change the environment. In the future, the College of Environmental Studies will organize a Workshop Series on Green Actions to Save Energy and Reduce Carbon Emissions, to help people develop proper concepts, ideas, and knowledge on diet, clothing, everyday living, education, and recreation, so that everyone can actualize the practice of saving energy and cutting down carbon emission, as an individual effort for environment protection.
The final round of the Pureland @ movie studio, to be held on January 8, 2011, will feature the showing of Little Nicholas, a film recommended by the College of Art and Culture. The film is based on a French picture book of the same title, which, written with the worldview of the child, explores parent-child relationships and community management. After the showing, Mr. Chiu Mingmin will lead the participants for further exploration and discussion. (Reported by Huang Shih-Ting)