Hollywood is undermining climate action

By | August 14, 2019

Cara Buckley writes:

Humans ruined everything. They bred too much and choked the life out of the land, air and sea.

And so they must be vaporized by half, or attacked by towering monsters, or vanquished by irate dwellers from the oceans’ polluted depths. Barring that, they face hardscrabble, desperate lives on a once verdant Earth now consumed by ice or drought.

That is how many recent superhero and sci-fi movies — among them the latest Avengers and Godzilla pictures as well as “Aquaman,” “Snowpiercer,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Interstellar” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” — have invoked the climate crisis. They imagine postapocalyptic futures or dystopias where ecological collapse is inevitable, environmentalists are criminals, and eco-mindedness is the driving force of villains.

But these takes are defeatist, critics say, and a growing chorus of voices is urging the entertainment industry to tell more stories that show humans adapting and reforming to ward off the worst climate threats.

“More than ever, they’re missing the mark, often in the same way,” said Michael Svoboda, a writing professor at George Washington University and author at the multimedia site Yale Climate Connections. “Almost none of these films depict a successful transformation of society.” [Continue reading…]

Hollywood trades in simplistic narratives and there will no doubt be producers who argue (disingenuously) that the best way of challenging climate-change deniers is to amplify the calls of alarm. Postapocalyptic visions could be characterized as a kind of wake-up call — this is where we’re headed unless we act now.

Still, even if that’s partially the intent, the primary objective in big budget action movie-making is always the same: commercial success. Entertainment of this variety has little if anything to do with trying to make the audience think.

That said, there is a much wider issue at play here.

The longer the climate crisis alarm bells keep ringing elsewhere across the media, the more likely it becomes that individuals lose faith in the possibility of collective action. Prophets of doom can promote despair.

This in turn may feed a nihilistic narcissism that turns attention away from the seemingly hopeless fate of humanity and life on Earth, and focuses instead on seizing the day.

We will each then increasingly inhabit our own small worlds at the dire expense of the world from which we’ve turned away.

The invigoration of faith in collective action requires leadership and no one has a role with greater potential than that of the U.S. president. In this regard, Donald Trump’s actions have been nothing less than a crime against humanity.

Trump’s replacement won’t simply need to swiftly undo the multitude of acts of sabotage carried out by this president. She will need to meet this issue with a level of seriousness, courage, and commitment that so far no other American leader has ever demonstrated.

This American leader will need to become a world leader of a stature never before seen.

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