Bloodletting to save the planet: 10:10’s twisted vision

Nowadays it’s increasingly hard to get worthy messages across about saving the planet without your audience simply switching off. In the post-Copenhagen world we’re all just a bit disillusioned. Carbon emissions reduction campaign 10:10 thought they had struck upon the perfect way to make an impact, when they teamed up with Richard Curtis (of Four Weddings… and Blackadder fame), but changed their mind after less than 24 hours.

The original version is still available on YouTube and the explosive short film provoked quite a reaction, but was it what 10:10 were hoping for? Their hurried retraction, which the Guardian reproduces here, suggests not.

There’s no doubt that blowing people up for their lackadaisical approach to reducing carbon emissions is striking and is gorey enough to make people pay attention, but is this approach tasteful, or even effective? If they were aiming to make us take this issue seriously, then they certainly failed, but given Curtis’ pedigree, it’s unlikely that a serious approach was what 10:10 were aiming for.

Maybe they intended to cause offence from the off. After all, any publicity is good publicity, and I wouldn’t be blogging about this now if the short film wasn’t controversial. They certainly pulled off an impressive trick by roping in celebrities such as Peter ‘The Robot‘ Crouch, Gillian Anderson and David Ginola, but is the message lost in the OTT ridiculousness of it all?

This is certainly the most memorable climate change video I’ve watched all year, but for all the wrong reasons. I’ll tell people about this because of the content, but not the message. Nothing about it inspired me to change my living habits. However if the aim was just to get the name of the campaign out there, then 10:10 have certainly succeeded.

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Mugabe’s magician proves there’s still life in Zimbabwe

An article on Zimbabwe in The Times on Friday made me smile for the first time in the two and half years that I have been reading about this ruined African nation. If it weren’t for The Times’ paywall, I’d happily link to Jan Raath’s article, but in lieu of that, I’ll briefly summarise.

Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe Oil Petrol Pump
Zimbabwe is desperate for diesel

Nomatter Tagarira, a spirit medium aged 35, was jailed this week for 39 months. Her crime was fooling Robert Mugabe and his officials into believing that she had supernatural powers to conjure diesel from a rock near her home, north of Harare. So successful was her deception that she was hailed as potential solution to the country’s energy problems by government ministers. Furthermore she managed to maintain her audacious con for over a year.

This was a sly, calculated ruse, including a secret signal given to an assistant, a length of piping concealed within the rock and £1.7million in largesse lavished on her by the government. At one point she was even supplied with a 50-vehicle convoy to help her travel on her night-time rituals, The Times reports. The officials were so taken in by it all that they employed an armed guard to stand watch and make sure no-one stole the supposedly blessed stone.

The reason this story makes me smile is not because I like reading about Zimbabwean citizens being imprisoned by Mugabe’s infamously brutal regime, far from it. The reason I reacted with mirth, is that the story of Ms Tagarira proves that there is life in Zimbabwean citizens yet. Rather than being downbeat and despondent after 30 years of reckless autocratic rule, there are still jokers, knaves, tricksters and opportunists trying to make themselves a sneaky fortune.

Furthermore, the sentence handed down was surprisingly lenient. Zimbabwe is the kind of nation where political allegiance is enough to get you thrown in prison, so the fact that serious fraud, which made fools of government officials, got such a moderate punishment seems to me as evidence that the judge may have even seen the funny side of this debacle. Ignatius Mugova, the magistrate handing down the sentence, freely admitted that “many people became gullible.”

True, it might have been a different case if Ms Tagarira had been white rather than black, but still the moderate sentence (which she undoubtedly deserved) adds a certain levity to this story. The enterprising spirit of chancers and renegades is alive and well in Zimbabwe, and it is a greater nation for it.