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Reduce your carbon footprint or get ready to explode

By David Fahrenthold
Are you ready to fight climate change?

No? Well, then. Get ready to explode.

That was the weird message of an ad put up online--and then taken down again--by a Britain-based environmental group called 10:10.

The group, founded last year, wants people to lower their carbon-dioxide emissions by 10 percent this year (2010 is the other "10" in its name). It signed up Richard Curtis, author of several comedy screenplays and director of the 2003 film "Love Actually" to direct a four-minute ad.

The ad starts innocently enough: a teacher is lecturing a group of British schoolchildren about the 10:10 campaign, and suggesting that they cut their family's greenhouse-gas emissions. Ideas include taking a train instead of a plane on their next holiday, or switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs.

The children seem mostly eager and helpful: one even says that her family is thinking of using its car less.

But two don't go along. Philip and Tracy.

Bad decision.

"That's absolutely fine, your own choice," the teacher says. "Just before you go, I just need to press this little button here..."

She presses the button, which is in a box on her desk.

And then little Philip and Tracy explode.

They each vanish with a whump, splattering blood on their classmates. A detached body part, falling back to earth, clunks off the top of a desk.. The other children scream, but the teacher--her glasses flecked with gore--carries right on talking about their homework assignment.

The rest of the commercial repeats the same formula. In three other vignettes, someone doubts the value of the 10:10 campaign, and then is casually blown to bits by his or her colleagues (No one explains _why_ these people have been pre-rigged to explode, or what that little button is connected to).

A group of office workers is slaughtered by their chipper boss. A soccer coach (David Ginola, reports the UK's Guardian newspaper) is detonated by one of his underlings. Former X Files actress Gillian Anderson is shown doing the voiceover for this very ad--and then makes the mistake of telling the recording engineer that she doesn't plan to do anything for the 10:10 campaign.

"No pressure," he tells her, a repeated line that is also the ad's name. Of course, the engineer then reaches for his own button and blows Anderson to Kingdom Come. The viewer sees the explosion from the engineer's vantage point, in a nifty little bit of special effects-making that--like the logistical challenges of making children appear to explode--would seem to have taken long enough to allow this ad's authors to re-consider their plan. When Anderson explodes, we hear only a dull thump--the sound of the blast is muffled by the recording booth's walls--and see the engineer's glass window coated in blood.

Somehow, this message--join the environmentalists, or be slaughtered by them--appears to have backfired.

The ad was apparently meant as over-the-top satire, but the gore is very realistic--and very widely splattered. So it's hard to think that even the biggest black-comedy fans would guffaw at the sight of a grammar-school student being blasted. The ad plays into an existing worry about green groups: that they love the environment more than they love the people in it, and will happily sacrifice the latter for the former.

In this ad, it appears, that is literally true.

"The message: climate deniers must die an extremely violent death," Peter Chesser wrote on the blog of the conservative American Spectator. He continued: "This is where communism and socialism ultimately lead -- even of the eco-variety. You don't get with the program; you get exterminated."

In this country, the environmental group, which had been working with the 10:10 group on an international "work party" to fight climate change next week, said it would cut ties with the Britain-based group."Neither we nor any of our partners saw the video before 10:10 released it live on the internet. Once we viewed it, we immediately urged 10:10 to take it off the web. The video is diametrically opposed to everything we and this movement stands for," the group said in a statement.

The 10:10 group said that it had taken down the ad, but it is still available on YouTube. (WARNING: This video contains realistic simulations of people exploding--lifelike enough to perhaps cause nausea.)

"There has been negative comment about the film, particularly on blogs, and concern from others working hard to build support for action on climate change. We are very sorry if this has distracted from their efforts," it said in a statement from Director Eugenie Harvey. "We are also sorry to our corporate sponsors, delivery partners and board members, who have been implicated in this situation despite having no involvement in the film's production or release. We will learn from this mistake."

What do you think about this ad? Take a Washington Post poll.

By David Fahrenthold  | October 5, 2010; 10:34 AM ET
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I find it fascinating that we have only three choices: "Love it!", "A little over the top", or "environmentalists are nuts." Is it possible that others, like me, would categorize themselves as environmentalists and at the same time be disgusted, saddened by, and categorically opposed to this advertisement? I suspect there are many in that camp (Bill McKibbin for example). By not making space for many of us to respond that way, and by setting up your survey with this false dichotomy, The Post fuels divisiveness on this issue that is neither helpful or productive.

Posted by: Eugene12 | October 5, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Some of the original responses said it all. The makers of this film showed their contempt for humanity and shone a light into their own polluted souls.

Posted by: Triamond | October 6, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

The consequences of the zero carbon initiatives will cause much death and misery, but not so much blood. Depriving third world countries of cheap electricity available from coal fired power plants will unquestionably cause millons of deaths from dysentery, smoke inhalation, and all the other human miseries that come from lack of refrigeration, clean water, and the ability to cook without breathing smoke from dung fires.

Where are the environmentalists and CAGW promoters on this issue? If you promote these policies do you also accept your share of responsibility for the resulting suffering?

I think not. You blather on about polar bears and eroding beaches but care not a whit about suffering that occurs every day and will get worse due to the policies you advocate.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | October 8, 2010 12:54 AM | Report abuse

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