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How Movies Tackle Climate Change

By Muhammad Amer

The power of audiovisual content is manifest when compared to any other written creations. I personally do not remember a particular field that I start liking without watching a TV series or a movie about it. Who of us would not remember The Grey’s Anatomy in medicine, Law and Order in legal sciences, and CSI Miami in solving crimes? It all starts with a single scene, then you find yourself attracted to a particular topic, notwithstanding the accuracy of information given in that scene.

However, speaking of climate change, one can easily notice that disastrous scenarios, dystopic atmospheres and apocalyptic imaginations are what only dwells the minds of famous directors. Except only few movies on climate action are there, with no tangible impact to consider.

Deep in the memory of silver screen is Soylent Green (1973) by Richard Fleischer, one of the first movies to mention the ‘greenhouse effect’. It revolves around how humans caused changes to the Earth, destroying global food and water supplies. The movie did not put an end or a euphemistic scenario for the future whatsoever.

In A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) by Steven Spielberg, the polar ice caps have completely melted and only some nations managed to survive the ensuing economic collapse by imposing limits on childbearing and requiring a license to have a baby. These painful restrictions could be considered a solution given by the movie, yet it remains a very pessimistic one with no hope to give.

I also remember the booming caused by Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), described as a ‘scientifically credible premise’ by Professor Jonathan T. Overpeck, climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. Despite focusing on the socio-economic side of human interactions, this movie is one of the most terrifying that dealt with the ‘end of life’ amid catastrophic climate conditions.

Most recently in 2021, Don’t Look Up by Adam McKay has lively highlighted global warming and how nobody is doing anything about the climate disaster. The movie depicts a painful satire of the society’s terrifying non-response, while people pay the cost of this with their lives.

It seems that entertainment industry has recently managed to attract the attention of viewers to both the climate crisis and the unshaken hope toward avoiding it. Despite their deadly scenarios, recent movies give a clue to put an end to some inhumane actions. I believe this is a true humane role that should be played by the cinema industry.