Climate Change Activists' Head-Exploding Ad May Have Gone a Bit Far

By Jennifer Welsh | October 5, 2010 1:40 pm

Warning: Some viewers might find the video below disturbing and graphic.

In a move that some are calling a misguided publicity stunt, the environmental activist group 10:10 Climate Change Campaign produced and released a gory and disturbing short film, similar to Plane Stupid’s “Polar Bear” video (warning: also gory), to promote the climate change action day scheduled for October 10, 2010 (or 10/10/10).

In the video above, people who don’t pledge themselves to 10:10’s cause (including school children and Gillian Anderson) are exploded into red, chunky goo with the press of a button. It was released last week and has resulted in a media backlash, including Sony’s retraction of support of the cause. It even inspired a cartoon.

Not only does the video offend and disgust, but the New York Times’s Dot Earth Blog summarized another main problem with the video–the dark shadow the negative publicity has spread over the entirety of the climate change debate:

If the goal had been to convince people that environmental campaigners have lost their minds and to provide red meat (literally) to shock radio hosts and pundits fighting curbs on greenhouse gases, it worked like a charm. Of course the goal might have been buzz more than efficacy. Too often these days, that’s the online norm. They succeeded on that front. I, among many others, am forced to write about it. Congratulations.

The Guardian (a supporter of 10:10’s) says the ad campaign was a joke that the public just didn’t get. In the original blog post about the video, they talked to 10:10 founder Franny Armstrong:

But why take such a risk of upsetting or alienating people, I ask her: “Because we have got about four years to stabilize global emissions and we are not anywhere near doing that. All our lives are at threat and if that’s not worth jumping up and down about, I don’t know what is.”

“We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change,” she adds.

10:10 Climate Change Campaign is a project to inspire people to cut their carbon emissions by 10 percent in a year, by taking on home improvement projects or changing their lifestyle. The group issued an official apology on Monday (10/4), along with this statement to the Guardian on Saturday (10/2) :

“With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines while making people laugh,” said Lizzie Gillet, 10:10 global campaign director. “We were therefore delighted when Richard Curtis agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and 10:10 would like to apologize to everybody who was offended by the film.”

For more reactions to the film, visit the New York Times’s Dot Earth blog.

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  • Rhacodactylus

    Ug, people are way way way too sensitive, political correctness is getting out of control, the video was funny.


  • Wil

    One of the things that make people feel very uneasy about this video, is that they suspect that this is how modern environmentalists really feel – that murdering innocent children and adults en mass, merely because they might have a different opinion, is just A-okay.

    The modern environmental movement has an extremely strong totalitarian aura as it is. In many ways, modern environmentalists remind people of cult members or zealous religious fanatics. Utterly no dissent or discussion is permitted. People suspect that when they get together, and they know that no non-believers are present, environmentalists talk with each other in themes similar to the theme of this video.

    Any people that think this video would be mainly perceived as a funny joke, and not as a disturbing warning about this creeping totalitarian extremism, are profoundly off the mark.

  • dirk


    This would only be about political correctness if you believe that people should be blown up but that people are too afraid to talk about it.

    It’s about bad taste, not political correctness or censorship. What would you think if a religious organization used the same visuals in a commercial?

  • Old Rockin’ Dave

    I thought the video was stupid, tasteless and sends the wrong message. I agree with dirk that if, say, the Mormons or the Scientologists made a similar video it would be just as bad.
    Cute polar bears and seals make much better visuals for global warming warnings. Show a polar bear drowning because the ice has receded too far and you’ll get thousands of converts to the cause.

  • Jennifer Welsh

    Hey all,

    Thanks for reading and commenting, good ideas and points all around.

    Personally, I didn’t think that this video would have shocked me, but it kind of did. I also don’t like that it really didn’t try to make a point about climate change–but I guess its point was to get out the word about this 10:10 movement, not prove to people that climate change is happening.

    It’s been successful in that respect, at least.


  • Donna Laframboise

    to Wil (#2):

    Very well said.

  • dirk

    One more thing…

    I actually thought the one with the soccer coaches/players was a little funny and came the closest to be on point.

    However, those first two segments showing people in authority blowing up their subordinates for disobeying suggestions were beyond creepy.

  • Nullius in Verba

    It’s partly about bad taste, but mainly that the video appears to place the Environmentalists in the role of the bad guys.

    People are familiar with dystopian future archetypes like Orwell’s 1984, as well as being familiar with past events associated with authoritarian regimes. You tread on such subjects lightly, and if you’re going to joke about them, it needs to be a sufficiently clever and worthwhile joke to make it worth it.

    The thing is, the 10:10 film seems to have stumbled into the role accidentally without realising it, and have thus bungled doing anything clever with it that might have justified arousing those images. You see the shocking set-up, wait for the punch line…, and there isn’t one. This gives the strong impression that the authoritarian aspect of it wasn’t intended as a joke, that they really meant it. That they didn’t even recognise the evil inherent in this behaviour.

    People inside the movement implicitly see themselves as the good guys, their methods justified by the high character of their ends, and thus any sort of comparison of this sort is literally unthinkable, not to be taken seriously.

    But for people outside the in-group, who do not share the same world view, who have perhaps found some of the things Greens have said or done a bit bossy and intrusive but mostly don’t take them very seriously, it comes as a shock. For those who have been watching the Deep Greens for a long time, who know about Linkola and Ehrlich, who were not surprised on reading James Jay Lee’s manifesto, their astonishment is that here Greens are openly shouting out in public what they had previously only been able to infer indirectly, or through obscure channels.

    Worse, from 10:10’s point of view, it makes a total joke of the situation when the management stand up now and try to persuade their staff to take part in the 10:10 campaign. Instead of an awkward peer-pressure moment, it becomes a humorous opportunity for subtle allusions to red buttons. Rather than increasing the social pressure to conform, it has defused it. (Or turned it into something a whole lot more unpleasant.)

    People will get over their offence and disgust quickly, but this is a blow that the Green movement will not quickly recover from. It will become a joke. That’s a lot more of an problem for Greens than it is for sceptics.

  • Twilightened

    You just can’t blow up Gillian Anderson. That is wrong.

  • Sally

    @Rhacodactylus: Its a common riposte by “fans” or advocates of the video to say that you’d have to be “paranoid” to think the Green movement really wants to blow up it’s opponents.

    Why paranoid I ask ?

    It is a common feature of extremists that they believe they are doing it in a good cause; that the ends justify the means. If your cause is saving the world, is it not logical that any means necessary are justified to achieve it?

    We have a problem in my country with animal rights protesters who have taken to terrorist methods against businesses they oppose. James Jay Lee did it in America. Greenpeace recently used the “we know where you live” line to warn deniers.

    Luckily, people who think we should actually go that far are a small minority.

    But its presence has an influence on the wider movement. There is a tendency towards intolerance and dehumanisation of dissent. An attempt to make it socially unacceptable, evidence of stupidity or malice, not worth listening to.

    And it’s already happened. Teachers already do political advocacy for Green politics, and it would be a brave child who stood up against a teacher and the rest of the class to express a contrary view. Employers already do the same, mostly for more cynical reasons it has to be said, and there are few employees independent enough to speak up against the boss.
    No, mostly people will stick their hands up in support in public, and then ignore it in private. They don’t believe, but they’re not going to make their own lives any harder by opposing it.

    But that’s just the first stage. Once you have made it socially unacceptable to speak in defence of scepticism, you can then introduce stronger methods of encouragement without anyone being able to object. Not execution, of course, but regulation and compulsion.

    And that’s what scares people about this video – that it portrays a ridiculously exaggerated version of this already worrying tendency. We’re not worried that you’re actually planning to do it, we’re worried that you’re already in the mindset where you would find it funny. Where you don’t even seem to notice that the authoritarian message it sends is horrifying.

    The scariest bit of the movie was not the explosions, but the teacher’s speech leading up to it.

    But I’m sure that next time a teacher or employer tries to get people to follow along, the words “no pressure” will make an amusing and useful riposte.

  • Steve

    Only someone who has never lived in a totalitarian country would find this funny.

    So, you disagree with our beloved leader? That’s okay. We still have freedom of speech here. Let me get your names down and off you go and play.

    Then comes the knocks in the night…

    Johnny and Mary aren’t in school today, boys and girls? That’s okay… I have a feeling you won’t see them for a while. Best to forget about them…

    Gosh, I thought the teacher was going to turn out to be a Slitheen or some other sort of Doctor Who like alien…

    But no, she was human…All Too Human…

    There’s one thing I always meant to ask Jack. Back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his. The man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world. Except sometimes he doesn’t. All those times in history when there was no sign of him, I wanted to know why not. But I don’t need to ask any more. I know the answer now. Sometimes the Doctor must look at this planet and turn away in shame.

  • littlebearz

    I think the comments are more interesting than the article lol. We all know they just need attention, and sometimes goes over their head with that idea.

  • Seth

    Greens attack 4×4 drivers and their vehicles, they attack airports and power stations assaulting the people who work there or protect the premises, this not a spoof, it’s a training video for zelots

  • Online Life Experience Degree

    One of the things that make people feel very uneasy about this video, is that they suspect that this is how modern environmentalists really feel – that murdering innocent children and adults en mass, merely because they might have a different opinion, is just A-okay. 


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