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I Looked Up

* Spoiler Alert – Do not read if you have not yet seen “Don’t Look Up.” *

Like many over the Christmas period, I settled down to Netflix and scrolled through hours of TV without settling on anything in particular. However, after a few days of passing over the satirical dark comedy about climate change called Don’t Look Up, I thought well why not, I will see if it lives up to the hype. Now I admit I was a bit sceptical; I had some significant issues with An Inconvenient Truth so wasn’t hopeful a dark comedy on climate change would hit the mark.

If you haven’t seen it the film is directed by Adam McKay, you think he sounds familiar well he used to write for Saturday Night Live and has in his last two outings to the big screen he looked at the 2008 financial crash (The Big Short) and the USAs ex vice president Dick Cheney, who has a penchant for warmongering and starting “Forever Wars” under false pretences (Vice). Think they sound pretty dark well Don’t look up is on a whole new level.

The overarching theme is that a giant comet is hurtling towards Earth but the scientists who discovered it struggle to convince society to act on such an existential threat, are an absurd but depressingly accurate disaster satire of actual current events around Climate Change.

The depiction of a culture that has dissolved into soundbites and 280 character tweets (I confess I had to google that) is more of a 2 x 4 to the head than a subtle interpretation of a generation of social media and celebrity. Yet the film has sparked enormous discussion (ironically mainly online) some focused on the power of storytelling.

It is no secret that the messaging from Environmental and Governmental groups around climate change are dense and don’t convey the message in a way to engage the largely disengaged public. I studied Climate and had a professor who had input to the IPCC report and can honestly say I have not read the whole of one of their reports.

However, does that mean we should reduce the messaging to metaphorical tales? Of course not, but its effectiveness has long been questioned. In 2019 James Cameron spoke to variety magazine and doubted the effect movies could have.

“Frankly [audiences] don’t want to hear about climate change,” Cameron stated. “We did a [documentary] show called ‘Years of Living Dangerously.’ We won an Emmy and got cancelled. … Does [storytelling] do that much good?”

No one can answer that question accurately but ultimately some lessons can be learned around how to communicate with a new generation, and I think everyone can agree it doesn’t include bombarding them with facts and figures over and over with the aforementioned 2 x 4.

The movie ends with the cast sat around the dinner table having a heartfelt and candid conversation before the end of the world (sorry if you got this far and didn’t realise the Comet destroyed nearly everything on earth). But what if this movie does one thing, what if it increases these discussions? It makes people listen and ask how do they connect their own values with climate action?

Don’t get me wrong one movie will not lead to dramatic re-conventions of COP parties to sign a net-zero treaty today. But it could spark individual conversations, if we realise (as said by Leonardo DiCaprio) “we may not stop this comet, but we can stop the climate crisis.” Could a collective shift be enough to bypass the self-aggrandising powers depicted by Meryl Streep and instead of denying there is a solvable crisis take the necessary steps to stop it from occurring?

Whether it be the dark comedy aspect, the stellar cast line-up or just the general herd mentality of click-bate the fact that a movie about Climate Change can hold the top spot of #1 most watched on Netflix worldwide (especially over the Christmas period) is nothing to sniff at and it certainly has me looking up!

Article written by Kate Turner Senior Manager Markets, Analytics & Sustainability.

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