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Caleb Klaces writes: The Age of Stupid uses a dramatic, fictional character to frame a series of apparently disparate contemporary documentaries. Pete Postlethwaite’s man on a chopper looking back from the future, as well as pithy animated sequences explaining the scientific, economic and sociological facts and figures, connects the people in front of the camera. They are all causing, trying to stop or (perhaps all and) victims of one very, very complicated thing: climate change.

Caleb Klaces writes: The Age of Stupid uses a dramatic, fictional character to frame a series of apparently disparate contemporary documentaries. Pete Postlethwaite’s man on a chopper looking back from the future, as well as pithy animated sequences explaining the scientific, economic and sociological facts and figures, connects the people in front of the camera. They are all causing, trying to stop or (perhaps all and) victims of one very, very complicated thing: climate change.

The End of the Line, shown at screens across the country to coincide with World Ocean Day yesterday, seems as effective a tool in making real and urgent to audiences the serious global problems of overfishing as the Age of Stupid is at showing the necessity of binding international targets being set at the climate change talks in Copenhagen this December. But the two films work quite differently. “Unlike many environmental problems, this is actually relatively simple to sort out”, Charles Clover, the writer of the book of the same name, says towards the end of the film. To sort it out we’re going to have to establish a network of marine reserves across 20-30% of the world’s oceans (at a cost of $12-14bn a year, roughly equivalent to current world fishery subsidies), as opposed to the less than 1% is protected. We need to enforce existing quotas, stop bottom trawling and develop a taste for smaller fish, such as mackerel, much of which is currently ground up and fed to fish in farms – a desperately inefficient process.

The film gets to this point ostensibly through a series of talking head snippets from scientists across the world, a Ted Danson voiceover and an ex-fisherman called Roberto. You can’t always choose your heroes and Roberto is a tubby, chain-smoking, tough but likeable character dedicated to catching the illegal catchers of Bluefin tuna in the act, phoning his findings to Charles back at The Telegraph. Roberto’s most remarkable discovery is that Mitubishi is one of the world’s largest buyers of what wild Bluefin is left. Not only that, but it looks like Mitsubishi is stockpiling frozen Bluefin as an asset to sell at a huge profit when there’s none left.

As well as following Roberto with his binoculars and secret camera, the film dips into the life of a Sengalese fisherman Adama Mbergaul, who makes $2 a day from fishing. He wants to make a new life in Europe, but it seems unlikely he’ll get here; as an African academic puts it, “they want our fish, but not our people”.

However, The End of the Line doesn’t really get into the lives of these people in the same way as The Age of Stupid and it’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to the layering of many voices around a repeated theme, rather than the climate change film’s focus on a few lives, brought into line by an overlaid narrative.

Much of the drama in The End of the Line comes instead from shots of fish. Lots of shots of fish, accompanied by rising strings or mournful piano. One particularly affecting series of shots of bloodied fish cut by hooks and knives on decks is interspersed with one Professor Worm’s map of the world with blue blocks (meaning seriously overfished stocks) spreading scarily over time like a worldwide patio craze.

Despite a brilliant tragic-comic shout at the boat pulling in tonnes of fish in the distance from a diver off the coast of Gibraltar of  “I want to fight with them; I want to fight!”, the film doesn’t single out one person, organisation or group as the sole villain. It shows pathetic EU talks in Luxemburg settling for catch quotas over twice the recommended sustainable levels. It shows the fishermen who are bringing in twice the EU (already unsustainable) amount. And it shows Charles folding up his Brompton bike to scrutinise menus of posh restaurants. The film has already started to make things happen. Pret a Manger has stated that it won’t be selling tuna any more and Nobu, a celebrity restaurant, has been boycotted by a number of celebrities. The point made by the film is not that celebrities won’t be able to eat celebrity fish any more, but that ocean ecosystems will be permanently altered by ever-declining fish numbers (“fancy a jellyfish burger?” a scientist asks), including a reduced ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

Caleb Klaces is a poet,and founder and Editor-in-chief of www.likestarlings.com, a website which pairs up established and new poets to create new poetic conversations. He is a guest blogger at the RSA Arts & Ecoloby Blog and has just written a preview of ArtsAdmin's 2 Degrees festival, coming up later this June as part of the Respond! strand of events.

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