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Photograph by Lina Scheynius

Vivienne Westwood meets James Lovelock on Video

Designer and activist Vivienne Westwood meets a hero and inspiration of hers, scientist James Lovelock.

"If young people don't listen to him, they're either stupid or they just don't care." So says Vivienne Westwood of James Lovelock, the maverick scientist and climate change guru that she interviews in this short film. A few months ago, I was invited to document this meeting, and you can read the full feature in this month's issue of Dazed, in which he reveals some very uncomfortable predictions about our future. Vivienne and I had first talked about this piece over a year ago, when she guest-edited an issue of Dazed, but James was too busy working on his next book at that time (The Vanishing Face of Gaia, published by Allen Lane). As such, it was exciting to be able to revisit the idea; as he approaches 90, James remains one of today's most influential thinkers and – despite the terrifying nature of his predictions (billions of us will die in the coming century due to climate change) – in person he is warm, engaging and a pleasure to talk to. Here is a short film (nine minutes or so) with snippets from that interview mixed in with some footage of Vivienne at the G20 protests, and some of her recent Active Resistance manifesto readings.

James Lovelock, speaking to Vivienne Westwood for Dazed & Confused: "One of the most harmful analogies that has been around recently is the 'tipping point'. Because it seems to imply that if only we pull back at this point then all will be well. It won’t. It’s already changed and it is changing. You see, in the last few years, ice that is in the north polar regions… it’s all going and the whole lot will be gone in between five and twenty years. When it dies, the amount of extra heat absorbed from the sun during the Arctic summer will be equivalent to all of the heat from all of the CO2 we’ve added to the atmosphere. So, suddenly the heating doubles and that’s something we can’t stop at all. We can’t do a thing about it... and that’s only one of many what we call ‘positive feedbacks’ in the system where the earth is moving rapidly to its hot state. We’re not going to stop it. So, what we should be thinking about is not trying to stop it, but preparing for the new world that is to come. It’s not a bad world but it’s not fit for seven billion people. There’ll be lots of places, not only on this island but all of the Arctic places – places like Canada, Siberia and so on – and we’ve got to make wherever we are a civilized and a fit place. It’s an enormous challenge and I hope that we’ll succeed. History tells us we might, you see, humans have been on the earth for a million years now and there have been seven events like the one about to happen during that time... the last one happened only 14,000 years ago. And when they happen, there are massive deaths... that’s were the legends of the floods come from, because the sea-level rose 120 metres at the last one – that’s huge amount. It flooded an area equal to the size of Africa as a continent. So, there were massive deaths during that occasion and on one of those – geneticists tell us – only 2,000 people survived. We’ve all come from that 2,000. It’s amazing, really."