6 Must-See Movies About Climate Change
Truly great films about the climate crisis are tough to come by. Allusions to environmental destruction are very familiar in the futuristic dystopias Hollywood churns out like clockwork, but they rarely get the science right—or they abandon it entirely in favor of skipping straight to some post-apocalyptic CGI extravaganza.
Those of us with a little knowledge of the climate crisis bristle at this kind of doom-and-gloom bombast—because we know better. But that doesn't mean a few thoughtful films haven't been able to cut through the noise.
Below are six of our favorites. We decided to spice it up by mixing narrative films with documentaries—and while our changing climate understandably casts a long, dark shadow over any future that wrestles with its impacts, we did our best to stay on the right side of the fine line between raucous, factually dubious calamity and thought-provoking "what if" explorations or science-centered spectacle.
Director Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is that rarest of Hollywood anomalies—a wildly complicated, lavishly expensive, wholly original mainstream blockbuster. It doesn't exist in the Marvel or DC cinematic universes; instead, it occupies a not-so-distant-future version of our very own—and things aren't exactly going great.
While the words "climate change" are never explicitly said in the film, the impacts of the crisis are writ large, driving a plot about an attempt to flee a near-future Earth reeling from drastically changing weather patterns and global food shortages for the safety of a new habitable planet.
Featuring one of the most stacked casts in recent memory, including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Ellen Burstyn and nominees Jessica Chastain, Timothée Chalamet and John Lithgow, Interstellar takes on a very real consequence of climate inaction, though it offers up an untenable solution.
After all, there's still no Planet B.
2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Living in a Louisiana bayou community called "the Bathtub," six-year-old Hush Puppy (youngest-ever Best Actress Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis) can't get the prehistoric aurochs her teacher tells her will be released from melting ice caps off her mind—even as the world in front of her crumbles and cowers, the victim of powerful storms, failing levees and familial health problems.
While the film's setting is technically fictional, it was inspired by several very real fishing villages in Southern Louisiana's Terrebonne Parish. These small, isolated wetland communities are threatened by climate-driven erosion, extreme weather and rising sea levels. Most notable among them is the rapidly disappearing Isle de Jean Charles, former home of "the first American climate refugees."
3. Chasing Coral
That coral reefs are existentially threatened by the climate crisis is a truth near-universally acknowledged. But filmmaker Jeff Orlowski doesn't simply telegraph a report on this impending ecological catastrophe.
Instead, Orlowski infuses his film with such empathy and ardor for our world's oceans and their vibrant ecosystems—as well as those working hard to save what's left—that it's impossible to not walk away pumped up and ready to join the fight.
Like we already mentioned, we try to avoid cynical, despondent hot takes on the climate crisis. But we're fans of director Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer for two big reasons: First, it's a very, very good, wildly underseen film, and second, because it confronts head-on the dangers of a "we'll deal with this later" approach to climate action.
The film is set in a future where a failed geoengineering experiment to counteract climate change plunges the planet into a new ice age, killing all life except for those lucky enough (a phrase we're using loosely here) to have boarded the titular train. This train now circles the globe on a constant loop and a tyrannical class system has taken hold onboard.
It's an important cautionary tale: While we should investigate any and all scientific developments to stop the climate crisis, dangerous gambles like geoengineering—or for that matter, fleeing our planet for an imagined oasis somewhere deep in the universe—could come with unintended consequences. So, why risk it when we know for sure that quickly transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables can and will work?
There's even an important philosophical principle – one at work in another great, underappreciated sci-fi film, 1997's Contact—to back this one up. Attributed to fourteenth century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham, Ockham's Razor states … well, Jodie Foster's Dr. Ellie Arroway put it best: "All things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the right one."
Note: For all its incredible imagination, Snowpiercer definitely has some moments of real violence and isn't one for younger audiences.
5. An Inconvenient Truth / An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Now, of course, the film that started a movement—and the follow-up that propelled it to new heights.
After seeing former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, people worldwide finally understood the reality of the climate crisis devastating our planet. For many, it was the moment they knew they personally had to do something about it. The film's impact continues to be felt more than a decade after it won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary and took its place among the highest-grossing documentaries ever.
Last year's follow-up, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, took that story further, showcasing both the amazing progress that's been made as well as how much further we still have to go to solve the climate crisis.
Both documentaries present the science and stakes of the crisis and ask viewers if they're ready to fight like our world depends on it (because it does).
Are You Ready to Fight?
Just like you saw others do in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, you too can work with Vice President Gore himself along with a host of field-leading experts and activists to learn the facts of the climate crisis and how we can solve it together. Apply today to attend our Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Los Angeles, California, from August 28-30, and join an incredible network of dedicated activists devoted to solving the greatest challenge of our time.
You know our climate is changing. You know renewable energy is the answer. And you want to make a difference. We'll show you how.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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