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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