Climate Documentary at the Greenhouse: A Hopeful Insight or an Ominous Reminder?

Maggie Wallace

Contributing Writer

The air in the Greenhouse was warm and alive for a Thursday movie night. A white sheet was hung from the sliding back door and a projector placed in front to create a makeshift outdoor theater, ready to play the documentary, 2040.

2040 was made in 2019, directed by Damon Gameau, to address the ongoing climate crisis. The story is of a father (Gameau) searching for potential solutions to elements of the climate crisis so that his daughter will have something to look forward to in 2040.  

The main premise is enticing, offering a hopeful look at the future. However, Gameau’s imaginings of the future are unrealistic; they fail to draw a believable line of reasoning from today’s potential solutions and tomorrow’s solved problems. Yet, the potential solutions that Gameau presents shine a spotlight on the latest innovators and the new technologies used to tackle the climate crisis. The information within these solution segments was wildly engaging. 

Each segment was bookended by a collection of children describing what they wanted the future to look like and the kinds of issues they were worried about today. Some of these interviews were very realistic and at times, humorous; for example, one boy said he wanted every day to be National Hot Dog Day. On the other hand, a few of the interviews leaned towards appearing to be scripted, with one girl’s eyes darting off camera as if she was reading from a cue card. 

Nonetheless, these interviews were sweet, and they added to the film’s message of making small improvements today so that younger generations will be able to have a happy tomorrow. The most profound interview was where a little boy simply stated, “I just want the future to be good.” It rang as something that was deeply human and almost too mature for a boy his age; it was the fear of the future, of impending doom. 

The solutions Gameau chose to focus on were from across the world, emphasizing this collective need for action. However, there was what appeared to be a strange contradiction within his message. Gameau wants the audience to end the film with the ability to make changes in their lives to improve the climate crisis, but the solutions featured were created and operated exclusively by experts. 

The average person doesn’t have an advanced degree in biological engineering or computer science, they don’t have decades of farming experience under their belts, and they don’t have the governmental influence to enact widespread environmental policies. It was frustrating for the message to be, “Look at what the future could be if we all banded together and changed some things!” while offering little information on what an average person could do to improve the global climate. 

Gameau’s supposed hopeful look into the future only served as a nauseating reminder of the present and how grave it all feels. 

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