There is a moment in Don’t Look Up!, Adam McKay’s new climate crisis tragi-comedy, where the main characters, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, do look up. For the first time, they can see the asteroid that is hurtling towards Earth, the thing for which – until now – they only had data and calculations as proof.
It’s actually quite a beautiful, poignant moment in an otherwise bizarrely funny/not-funny, often off-kilter, crash-bang-wallop kind of film.
The title, Don’t Look Up!, of course, comes from the political slogans that follow this scene, as those in power do everything they can to challenge the credibility of the scientists’ peer-reviewed work. Meryl Streep is a particularly good awful President.
So – a world-destroying asteroid is hurtling towards Planet Earth. Metaphor anyone? Of course it’s a metaphor and of course it’s for the climate crisis. And perhaps it’s true to say, twenty years ago, we really might have needed such a metaphor. Today though? Today the evidence shows: people get it. In the UNDP’s People’s Climate Vote in 2021, the largest survey of its kind, 64% of people around the world said that climate change was an emergency, 72% in Europe and North America. Only 10% said we were doing enough to tackle it.
That aside, Don’t Look Up! is still worth a look at. Because it teaches us how a whole system of politics, media and big business can be so entangled and intertwined that it can ultimately do nothing. Like when Mark Rylance’s brilliantly off-putting character Peter Isherwell – the owner of a giant tech conglomerate called Bash – changes the President’s course of action by pointing to the limitless economic growth posed by the asteroid’s mineral content.
In our own world, big business has had a lot to answer for. Take Petrochemical companies who have funded decades-long climate denial campaigns for example. Or nowadays the rise of greenwashing, as brands realise they can make money by going ‘eco’. We at FixIts know only too well, as a small player in a big pond, how difficult it is to make an ecologically sound product.
Which is all the more reason weshould look up, of course. And perhaps that’s the point, perhaps that’s the real metaphor going on here, the one that’s interesting. To look up is to think independently. It’s to follow the evidence. It’s to see what you see in front of you and say it. The real message of the movie is a hopeful one. Individuals do have power, if they dare to think for themselves. We should remember that.
Spoiler alert: there’s no hope for the planet in this movie, the asteroid wins. But with the majority of the world population on our own planet not just understanding the severity of the climate crisis, but wanting more to be done about it, surely there’s hope for ours?