This was not a difficult article to write because let’s be real- all it takes to tackle climate change harder than the Australian government is to merely acknowledge its existence. Or perhaps to not give $1 billion to the creation of a new mega-mine, and invest in renewables instead.
With that it mind, we’ve collected a list of just a few of the instances in which pop culture has explored climate change. It just goes to show how aware of the problem the wider world is, whether or not their governments wish to address it.
Futurama: Crimes of the Hot
“I suppose the environment can take one more for the team”
The world is getting too hot, so the crew watches an old movie about global warming. This movie explains how greenhouse gases are trapping sunlight in the atmosphere. Thankfully the politicians of this movie recognise global warming as a problem and take decisive action to stop it ONCE AND FOR ALL… by dropping increasingly large chunks of ice into the ocean. When this plan of direct action (surely very different to our own Direct Action Plan) proves to be a band-aid rather than a lasting solution, the world’s scientists meet to discuss the problem. Professor Farnsworth reveals that robots emit high levels of greenhouse gases. In the early days of robot production, a cool earth was sacrificed for cool robot features. What’s one little race of greenhouse gas intensive robots? The world of Futurama came to regret this decision. What’s one little greenhouse gas intensive mine? Will we regret this decision in Australia too, and have all our ice creams constantly melting?
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
“Also, it turns out that burning all those fossil fuels had some nasty side effects, like raising the temperature of our planet and screwing up the environment.”
The sub-genre of sci-fi literature that deals with dystopian climate futures is called cli-fi. Given his assertions that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by a left-leaning science community, the cli-fi section of Malcolm Roberts’ personal library probably also includes the Garnaut Climate Change Review, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and everything written by NASA (according to Malcolm Roberts, NASA has corrupted all of the climate change data). In Ready Player One, a terrific novel by Ernest Cline, the climate ravaged landscape checks out with all current scientific thinking- polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, extreme weather events are the norm, plant and animal species are disappearing, people are starving and homeless, and there is a world war over the few remaining resources. Rather than live in this world, people take refuge in a virtual reality video game. Does avoiding the massive problems facing humanity by hiding inside virtual landscapes like Facebook sound familiar? Wow! Fiction can come up with some crazy ideas.
The Crown: Act of God
“He’s insisted the country keep burning coal irresponsibly this winter to give the illusion of a solid economy.”
The recent Netflix drama The Crown is known for remaining faithful to the real details of the life of Queen Elizabeth. This episode is set in 1952, and Queen Lizzy has just come to power when a heavy smog descends over London due to cold weather combining with an anti-cyclone to trap the smoke from inner-city coal plants. The scientists had warned politicians against opening up inner-city coals plants, but the politicians refused because of ‘jobs and growth’ (sounds familiar – looking at you Malcolm). Once the fog descends, scientists again warn that the continued use of inner-city coals plants will exacerbate the problem. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decides that the best course of action is to do nothing. The city comes to a standstill and 12,000 people die. Eventually, a change in weather conditions lifts the fog. The moral of the story? Don’t listen to the scientists and everything will probably work out for itself. If the cost is only 12,000 of the most disadvantaged members of society, what do well-off politicians have to lose?!
The MaddAddam Trilogy, Margaret Atwood
“Human society, corpses and rubble. It never learned. It made the same cretinous mistakes over and over, trading short-term gain for long-term pain. It was like a giant slug eating its way relentlessly through all the other bio-forms on the planet, grinding up life on earth and shitting it out the backside in the form of pieces of manufactured and soon-to-be-obsolete plastic junk.”
Atwood has called climate change the “everything change”, and in this series of dystopian future novels, everything has changed. There are the classics of climate change- rising sea levels, harsh heat- but this book explores beyond that, and delves into bioengineered pigs gone wild, bioengineered humans gone mild and the Church of PetrOleum, which worships oil. Is this where we are headed? Another classic for Malcolm Roberts’ cli-fi shelf!
“Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”
Leo is a walking pop culture icon. The star of many memes, he appears in some of the most classic movie scenes of all time, and who hasn’t seen him dancing his little heart out at Coachella!? This human pop culture icon has decided to throw himself into the fight against climate change with the same passion and determination with which he took on the bear in The Revenant. Now, if only beating climate change inaction was as easy as beating a grizzly bear with your bare hands! Way back in 1998 DiCaprio established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (how did he come up with that name!?) to promote environmental awareness. He has been a United Nations representative on climate change, and recently executive produced and appeared in the documentary Before the Flood, exploring the impact of man-made global warming. The film was watched more than 2 million times on the day following its release, which shows the power of having a heartthrob-turned-very-serious-well-respected-actor on board the solar-powered climate change train.
At the end of the day, there seems to be a lot more about climate change on our televisions and in our cli-fi novels than in Australian government policy. So it really must all be fiction! Phew! Nothing to worry about here, folks! Pop another greenhouse gas on the barbie and let’s just carry on then, shall we!?