Eight years after “The Inconvenient Truth” made “climate change” a household (though hotly contested) word, nature is out of whack: Al Gore’s prophesies have become bracing realities for American communities plagued by draught, heat waves, heavy rains, hurricanes and other weaponized weather patterns, according to the National Climate Assessment, the government’s recently issued report. (By the way, the website presents frightening facts in a very user-friendly interactive format.)
So what has pop culture done to help foist change and save the planet? Can filmmakers big and small, from Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) to Jennifer Baichwal (“Watermark”) keep the dialogue going? Or are our nation’s leaders immune to the facts and prepared to plunge all of us into a future marked by environmental disasters that even Hollywood couldn’t foresee?
Fine, fear the M.U.T.O. in “Godzilla,” the nuclear-hungry monsters that get second billing in the new movie, but what the public really need to be afraid of is the coming summer’s temperatures. Over the last century, temperatures have increased an average of just under two degrees across the U.S., which doesn’t sound like much, except when you read what such an incline has done to weather patterns. In the Northeast alone, “heavy rain events” are up 71%.
Writing for Keyframe Daily, I took a look at the films of Jennifer Baichwal with respect to the National Climate Assessment report and I can’t decide which is more scary: Her elegiac apocalyptic docs, from “Manufactured Landscapes” to “Act of God” to “Watermark,” or the scientific evidence that backs up Baichwal’s thematic undercurrent of man’s imbalance with his/her natural surroundings. As Baichwal collaborator Edward Burtynsky says in “Landscapes,” “If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.”
And we already are.