Fierce urgency

Beyond the Tipping Point? Director: Stefan Skrimshire ‘That it goes on like this is the catastrophe,’ the German critic Walter Benjamin once wrote, a comment all the more prescient given that our present lifestyles threaten to change the climate beyond the point of reversability. This film is not about the climate science behind the suggestion […]

July 25, 2010 · 2 min read

Beyond the Tipping Point?

Director: Stefan Skrimshire

‘That it goes on like this is the catastrophe,’ the German critic Walter Benjamin once wrote, a comment all the more prescient given that our present lifestyles threaten to change the climate beyond the point of reversability. This film is not about the climate science behind the suggestion that a ‘tipping point’ exists, but about what such a notion of apocalyptic disaster does for our sense of political possibility and agency.

In some ways this apocalyptic discourse is politically disabling, because it situates the catastrophe as an event that is yet to come, as though we could take evasive action when the crisis is finally upon us. Worse still, it suggests that we don’t need a fundamental transformation in the social and political order since we have just enough time to adapt our behaviour. As Red Pepper regular Andy Bowman observes in the film, the horizons of official climate change campaigns are narrowed to technical issues (such as tighter controls on levels of CO2 emissions) rather than question the sustainability of capitalist consumerism.

So, while it might be useful to raise public awareness of what Barack Obama memorably called ‘the fierce urgency of now’, isn’t there a danger that the sheer size of the challenge threatens to paralyse us into inaction? And if each and every summit of political leaders is seen as the last chance to take the necessary action – what happens if all those final opportunities are not taken? Then what do we do? Linger on hoping in a world beyond hope, like characters in a Beckett play?

The political and ethical questions raised by Skrimshire’s film could scarcely be more important or challenging.

Michael Calderbank

A trailer for the film can be seen at: www.beyondthetippingpoint.com


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