Don’t Look Up points the world to what we refuse to see.
The new satirical movie Don’t Look Up led me to tears as it came to close, because it’s such a brutally real vision of how our world refuses to see the perils that surround us.
Dressed in a veneer of an end-of-the-world meteorite disaster film, all but the most tediously oblivious viewers (which I fear may be all too many) will see it for what it clearly is: A warning about humanity’s refusal to engage with the dangers of climate change. But the analogy could also be easily applied to any number of other current worldly woes: The Covid-19 pandemic, the massive loss of biodiversity and ecosystem destruction, the plague of violence against women, the persistence of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism, and the rampant inequality and exploitation that leads many to suffer and die. The evidence these things, and many other issues, are all doing great damage to our planet, our communities, our culture, and our loved ones are so abundantly clear if anyone cares to look.
But like the Trumpian masses Don’t Look Up had simply refusing to look to the sky to see their incoming doom, most of the world persists in being blind to the dangers that surround us even as they become ever more obvious.
For a long time, the threat of climate change seemed quite abstract. The idea of a world a few degrees warmer even appeals to many, and certainly didn’t seem like something that should put them off having huge families, eating meat, driving cars, flying as casually as catching a bus, consuming more and more, or voting for anyone that would champion alternatives to any of those things.
But we are long past that time, the comet-of-our-doom is clear to see right now to even the least aware of the particulars of how climate change manifests. Everyone can see now our winters are weirdly warm, that storms seem more frequent, more powerful, that floods and wildfires are occurring with frequency and vigour unknown in our history.
But we refuse to see, to join the dots, to act.
How much more can it take. The tipping points climate scientists have been warning of for decades are now not just a distance threat of doom, they are happening: Permafrosts are melting, rainforests are burning, sea ice and glaciers are vanishing.
I often feel like Casandra, doomed to be ignored while disasters foretold unfold. That’s what makes Don’t Look Up so moving for anyone who really understands the scale and urgency of the climate change and ecological threats, even while it very funnily dissects the ignorance and short-sightedness it illustrates. What does it take for the world to finally wake up? Is Don’t Look Up itself doomed not to be a warning, but a prophecy. I hope for the former, but fear more and more the latter.