It’s Friday night and the popcorn is made. What’s an environmentally minded citizen to watch? Perhaps you’ll choose post-apocalyptic, survivalist fare like WALL-E or Book of Eli. Or, maybe you’d rather go retro with a post-glacial Waterworld or speed into the next glaciation with The Day After Tomorrow?
There are plenty of envirotainment films on offer because climate change provides the perfect plot device—a global threat with rich opportunities for villainy, heroism, doomed love and complex moral undertones. Despite its tendency to align credible science with incredible fiction, envirotainment is a surprisingly powerful way to bring issues into the public consciousness.
Did You Know?
A survey conducted after the release of The Day After Tomorrow (2004) showed that compared to those who didn’t see it, viewers had an increased level of concern for global warming despite the wild improbability of events portrayed in the movie.
It seems we aren’t watching enough movies though, or perhaps we’re watching the wrong ones. While more than 90 percent of scientists are in consensus on the reality of climate change, up to 66 percent of media saturated American teens say that they don’t believe the science, need more information, or believe it to be a hoax.
Viewers crave excitement and, without special effects, it comes too often from generated debate and scandal. In the same decade that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out a statement of consensus from over 3000 international scientists on the reality of global warming, the news media hyped reports of data manipulation (later disproved) and gave nearly equal air time to credible scientists as they did to unvetted outsiders with extreme views.
The environment has become political in the media’s spotlight, providing fodder for election debate and dividing believers along party lines.
Did You Know?
In Canada, supporters of the Liberal and Bloc Quebecois are most likely to believe in climate science along with Green and NDP supporters, while Conservative supporters have the lowest belief in climate science.
Celebrities including politician Al Gore, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and director Tom Shadyac have used their media power to bring vetted climate science to the masses through documentary films. But, when you’re deciding on a movie to see with your friends, would you rather an environmental documentary or an action thriller?
If envirotainment can excite the skeptical masses to climate action why is there no enviro-blockbuster lined up for the summer? Disney-PIXAR? Universal Pictures? Telefilm Canada? Some mind-blowing, people-moving, envirotainment please!
Natural Resources Canada: The impacts of changing climate are already evident in every region of Canada
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Global Warming: a perfect plot device
The Alternate Energy Sources Great Green Movie Guide
Leiserowitz, A. (2004) Beforeand after The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. study of climate change riskperception. Environment, 46(9), 22-37. http://environment.yale.edu/leiserowitz/climatechange/TDAT.html
Leiserowitz, A., Smith, N. & Marlon, J.R. (2011) AmericanTeens’ Knowledge of Climate Change. Yale University. New Haven, CT: YaleProject on Climate Change Communication. http://environment.yale.edu/climate/publications/american-teens-knowledge-of-climate-change/
University of Colorado at Boulder. "Role of massmedia in climate change skepticism." ScienceDaily, 23 Feb. 2010. AccessedWeb. 26 May 2011. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100222140619.htm
Climate Compared: Public Opinion on Climate Change inthe United States & Canada February 23, 2011 National Survey of AmericanPublic Opinion on Climate Change (NSAPOCC) http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2011/04_climate_change_opinion.aspx
The effects of global warming: affecting everyone.Alternate Energy Sources. http://www.alternate-energy-sources.com/effects-of-global-warming.html