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'Bart'

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  1. My friends give me uncomfortable looks about my new film, Burn Up, because I have a Cassandra-like reputation for writing fiction about things that later become fact.

    Many years ago, I made a film called The Darkest Light about a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Two years later, it happened for real.

    I wrote the script for another film called Yasmin that suggested disaffected British Muslim youths could turn to terrorism. A year later came the London suicide bombings.

    I wonder if Simon would accept a commission to write a script where I become the pampered love-slave of a billionaire blonde hottie.

    Worth a try.

  2. Even oilmen believe our planet is burning up

    Link

    I am sitting in the office of a man who was, until recently, chief executive of one of the biggest oil companies in the world: a man who made his company billions of dollars. I listen, make the odd nervous note and reflect that it's been a long road since I wrote one of Britain's best-loved films, The Full Monty.

    As a scriptwriter, I have met lots of powerful people, but my reaction is always the same. When I went to the Oscars, I sat next to a pleasant, elegant woman and chatted happily to her until somebody pointed out it was Claudia Schiffer. After that, I could not utter another word.

    But today it isn't because I am star-struck that I am terrified; it is because the oil man is telling me the opposite of everything he should say. Over the tinkle of teacups, he is predicting the end of civilisation.

    My friends give me uncomfortable looks about my new film, Burn Up, because I have a Cassandra-like reputation for writing fiction about things that later become fact.

    Many years ago, I made a film called The Darkest Light about a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Two years later, it happened for real.

    I wrote the script for another film called Yasmin that suggested disaffected British Muslim youths could turn to terrorism. A year later came the London suicide bombings.

    I'm not boasting: I just listen to experts who prove frighteningly accurate.

    So given my track record, my friends are keen to know what happens at the end.

    Once I had decided to write a drama about climate change I spoke to everybody who was prepared to talk.

    Surprisingly, this turned out not just to be the usual environmental suspects such as Greenpeace, Friends Of The Earth or WWF, but people in the oil industry.

    And these weren't disaffected whistle-blowers, but some senior figures who were prepared to step out of the shadows and tell me just how scared they were.

    The oil man predicting an apocalypse was one of them. I had gone to his office expecting him to tell me global warming was at best an uncertain science based on dodgy data, at worst a Left-wing conspiracy designed to tax us all to death.

    Oil companies pumped out the oil that was producing the carbon dioxide, so why would he tell me any different?

    Sure enough, that's how the interview started. The world was 'going through a 40-year transition period from a carbon economy to a hydrogen economy' where oil would smoothly be replaced by other sources of renewable energy.

    He talked on convincingly. The tea-lady brought round the trolley. I felt reassurance waft over me: the environmental scaremongers were wrong.

    Then I looked up. A '40-year transition period'? I cleared my throat, and nervously suggested that Sir John Houghton, the scientist who led the first Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, had told me we had at best ten years to stop the increase in global temperatures, otherwise we were in danger of runaway climate change. Ten years tops. Not 40.

    The CEO stopped in his tracks. 'Oh, you've talked to him, have you?' His tone changed.

    He sat down heavily and said: 'Well, I know John and he's right, and if you want to know what I really think, I think we're fiddling while Rome burns.' He was the first of many to come to the confessional. People who for the sake of their careers shouldn't even have returned my phone calls were opening their hearts to me. Why such dangerous honesty towards a writer?

    I found the answer at a conference of the Tipping Point organisation which puts artists and scientists together to learn about climate change.

    We met at Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre, in which were placed signs reading 'politics', 'business', 'the media' and 'science'. We were asked to stand under the sign we thought offered the most hope of progress on the issue.

    With some giggling and shoving, 200 people crowded underneath the various signs. When this musical chairs for adults finally stopped, there were just two people under the 'science' sign. Only one of them was a scientist.

    We were aghast. The room was full of eminent scientists from across the world, yet none of them had the confidence to stand under their own sign.

    Why? ' Because nobody is listening, ' they answered. 'For 15 years we've been warning about rising sea levels, melting icecaps, changes in sea currents, weakening monsoons, the acidification of the ocean. Yet nobody is listening to us.'

    It is extraordinary. There are thousands of scientific studies by climatologists, oceanologists, biologists - every ologist imaginable - charting the current and future effects of climate change. Yet half the population of this country still doesn't believe it.

    Today, there's a lot of talk about renewable energy and the G8's latest pledge of cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. But we've got ten years to turn this around, not 40.

    Sir James Lovelock, author of the Gaia theory on the ecological balance of the planet, told me it was like the days of appeasement before the Second World War when Hitler was rearming, polishing the boots of his stormtroopers and annexing countries while much of the British Establishment chose to look the other way.

    I was so frightened by what I heard that I put solar panels and a wind generator on my roof, changed to a green electricity tariff, cycled everywhere.

    Did it make one jot of difference? No. But if I couldn't change my behaviour knowing what I now knew, how could I expect a government to change?

    As I dug around the oil industry, I came across another extraordinary elephant in the room that nobody dared mention, but which will become crucial in the fight to prevent irreversible warming: Peak Oil.

    This is what they call the moment when we start running out of the stuff.

    When I started on this journey, three years ago, oil was 50 dollars a barrel and the Peak Oil theorists were dismissed as alarmist fringe elements. We were apparently at least 50 years away from Peak Oil. Anyone who dared to say different was simply laughed at.

    But then I met a man employed by the oil industry to collate data on oil reserves, and he told me that already we are not producing enough oil to meet demand, and even if output were increased, it would be used up by growing demand from China and India.

    So, I asked, what did this mean?

    'A global crash,' he said, 'at a guess somewhere between 2008 and 2010.'

    I left his office on a beautiful, globally-warmed day with house prices soaring and the financial markets blossoming. Clearly, the man was nuts.

    But who is nuts, now? Oil has hit 147 dollars a barrel, house prices are plummeting and the stock markets are going through the floor. And yet, still, is anyone listening?

    Somehow, I had to turn a mass of complex science and politics into something people would want to watch, but how could I dramatise carbon dioxide, an enemy you can't see, smell or touch?

    It would be like Spooks without the terrorists, The Wire without the drug dealers.

    I found the answer in men like John Ashton, Tony Blair's 'climate tsar'. A former diplomat, he now shuttles between China and Europe, patiently negotiating, encouraging, persuading the Chinese, soon to become the world's biggest emitters of CO2, to sign up to emission reduction targets.

    You are unlikely to see his name anywhere, for that is certainly not his style, but if we ever get ourselves out of this mess, it is people such as John who will have saved us.

    And that's what gave me the key to Burn Up: the lies and duplicity of the denial industry pitched against people desperate to prevent runaway climate change.

    I concealed a mass of factual science and politics inside the Trojan Horse of a racy thriller.

    And where does this leave me? What does Cassandra have to say about the chances of humanity solving this most dangerous of puzzles?

    You might be surprised to know that I believe there is still hope.

    As Rupert Penry-Jones's character says in the film: 'Oil. Oil is everything.' Its all-consuming use has caused the problem and now its scarcity might just save us.

    A spiralling price that triggers a global power-down could buy us the time to stop the warming. In fact, it's happening right now.

    Will it work? We're about to find out.

  3. I HAVE JUST ABOUT HAD ENOUGH OF SILLY PEOPLE TROLLING AROUND LOOKING AT HOUSES AND EXPECTING A FULLY FITTED KITCHEN , GRANITE TOPS ETC AND EXPECTING ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS HANG UP THEIR CLOTHES ON MOVING IN !GET REAL ,TOO MANY STUPID MAKEOVER PROGRAMMES ON TV HAVE CREATED A REALLY DAFFY NEW HOUSEHUNTER THESE DAYS AND ITS GETTING SO BORING , `OH I DONT LIKE THE COLOUR ON THE WALLS,THEY SCREETCH, HATE THE CARPETS,ETC ETC, DON`T THEY REALISE THE PROPERTY REALLY IS ABOUT WHERE IT IS, HOW THE STRUCTURE IS AND WHAT THE FUTURE POTENTIAL IS , NOT THE WRETCHED CARPETS ETC, ITS THE BUILDING YOUR BUYING STUPID !!

    WE ARE ON THE MARKET IN WEYBRIDGE, WE ARE MOVING SOLEY BECAUSE THE DRIVE TO OUR BUSINESS IS NOW TOO MUCH IN TIME AND COSTS , WE LOVE IT HERE, HAVE FAB NEIGHBOURS , LOTS OF OUR FRIENDS LIVE UP HERE BUT ALAS WE HAVE DECIDED IT MAKES COMPLETE SENSE, HOWEVER IN HAMPSHIRE IT SEEMS THAT AGENTS TALK UP THE AREAS , PRICES WILL NOT COME DOWN , EVEN ON AN OFFER , AND WE HAVE FOUND A WRECK WE CAN AFFORD JUST ABOUT BUT NEEDS LOTS OF MONEY AND WORK ON IT WHICH WE CAN COPE WITH OVER TIME ,AS ITS GOING TO BE OUR HOME SO EVEN IF IT GOES DOWN AFTER WE HAVE BOUGHT OT IT DOESNT MATTER , ITS OUR HOME !SADLY WE CAN`T MAKE AN OFFER AS WE HAVE NONE ON OURS AS YET,THEY WILL ONLY ACCEPT OFFERS FROM SOMEONE IN A POSITION TO PROCEED !NEEDLESS TO SAY ITS STILL ON THE MARKET !

    WHY IS IT THEN THAT SO MANY PEOPLE ARE BLEATING ABOUT BEING SCARED TO MOVE AS PRICES MAY FALL, WELL CHANCES ARE THEY MAY BUT LIFE GOES ON AND WE ALL MUST STOP LOOKING AT OUR HOMES AS A MONEY MARKET, THOSE DAYS ARE OVER FOR A WHILE, LOOK ON THE LONG TERM FOR A HOME , IF IT ISN`T QUITE AS YOU WOULD LIKE IT THEN CHANGE IT AS AND WHEN YOU CAN! OUR HOME IS AS EVERY ONE TELLS US QUITE LOVELY, THE KITCHEN AND BATHROOM NEED REDOING CERTAINLY BUT AS WE HAVE PASSED AND APPROVED PLANS TO EXTEND WE DECIDED TO LEAVE THIS AS WHOEVER WANTS TO BUY IT MAY HAVE DIFFERENT TASTES AND IDEAS, NO MATTER IT HAS ITS OWN DRIVE AND PARKING FOR 4 CARS , A STUNNING SOUTH FACING GARDEN WITH LARGE SUMMERHOUSE ,2 STONE FLAGGED PATIO`S , LOVELY LAWN WELL PLANTED ETC ETC A CONVERTED GARAGE TO HABITABLE STATUS WHICH IS NOW 2 ROOMS WITH VUALED CEILINGS , PLANS TO EXTEND WHICH WILL CREATE A 3 BEDROOM , 2 BATHROOM HOUSE , NO IT SEEMS PEOPLE THESE DAYS WANT IT ALL DONE FOR THEM BUT AT THE SAME PRICE THEY SEE IT FOR NOW AND ITS SO UNREALISTIC , WE WILL BE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO LIVE IN THE WRECK WE HAVE FOUND WHILE WE DO IT UP BUT ITS VIRTUALLY THE SAME PRICE WE ARE SELLING FOR AND ALL THIS SO NEAR TO LONDON , IF WE DON`T SELL SOON AND LOSE THE PLACE WE CAN AFFORD TO MOVE TO THEN WE ARE COMING OFF THE MARKET BECAUSE WE REALISE THAT HOUSE HUNTERS NOW ARE OF THE BELIEF THAT THEY CAN OFFER 10 % LESS ACROSS THE BOARD AND THAT QUITE HONESTLY IS NOT THE TRUTH , ITS ALL MEDIA HYPE AND SOME AGENTS ARE SO DEAD THEY ASK THIS OF CLIENTS, SORRY GUYS BUT ITS TRUE, THE AGENTS ARE NOT BUSY SO NOW THEY HAVE TO WORK HARDER BUT SADLY LOTS DON`T AND QUITE HONESTLY THE PRICES THEY ARE QUOTING NOW ARE SILLY AND FAR TOO LOW, WE KNOW AS WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AROUND SURREY, HAMPSHIRE AND EVEN WEST SUSSEX FOR QUITE SOME TIME, NONE OF THESE AREAS ARE SEEING THE PRICE FALLS THAT THESE AGENTS SEEM TO WANT TO TELL US HERE IN WEYBRIDGE THAT WE SHOULD ALL DROP TO , WHEN ITS QUITE APPARENT TO US ON ALL OUR TRAVELS THAT NO WHERE ELSE IN THE SOUTH SEEMS TO BE HAVING TO DO SO !! SO THERE IT IS, WE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A WONDERFUL PROPERTY WITH NOTHING TO DO , WOULD RATHER START FROM SCRATCH ANYWAY THEN BE EXPECTED TO PAY OVER THE ODDS FOR SOME VILE FITTED KITCHEN , OR SOME NAFF BATHROOM THAT ALL HAS TO BE RIPPED OUR ANYWAY ! NOTHING WRONG WITH WEYBRIDGE , LOVELY WALKS , NEAR LONDON, THE RIVER, COUNTRYSIDE , WONDERFUL SCHOOLS SO COME ON YOU WEYBRIDGE ESTATE AGENTS AND GET A GRIP AND BE PROUD OF THE AREA YOU ARE DEALING WITH , THOSE IN HAMPSHIRE WOULD BE SUCH AN ASSET TO US RIGHT NOW , THEY ARE SO POSITIVE AND PROACTIVE , WE ALL NEED THAT HERE IF PROPERTY ARE GOING TO SELL AT ALL !! WILL KEEP YOU ALL POSTED AS TO WHAT HAPPEND NEXT , WON`T HOLD OUR BREATHS, ITS A CRAP MARKET NOW WE KNOW BUT SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO MOVE FOR WORK, SCHOOLS, ETC ETC SO WE LIVE IN HOPE!!BY THE WAY , SOME OF YOU ARE PROBABLY THINKING WE ARE WELL OVER PRICED , WELL WE PROBABLY WERE A FEW MONTHS AGO , HOWEVER WE DID RECEIVE A GOOD OFFER BUT WE COULDN`T FIND A PLACE WE COULD AFFORD TO MOVE TOO, NOW WE HAVE BUT NO BUYERS ,( NOT SO SURE THEY WERE THAT GENUINE ANYWAY) THE PLACE WE HAVE FOUND IS EMPTY SO NO VILE CHAIN TO WORRY ABOUT , PERFECT FOR SOMEONE WH WANTS TO MOVE AND GET ON WITH A LIFE , PRICES GO UP AND DOWN EVERY 15 YEARS SEEN IT ALL BEFORE SO WHY NOW THE BIG AMERICAM STYLE FREAKOUT?

    Pardon?

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