Original Release Date: 11 February 2019
Directed and Written By: Damon Gameau
Velvet is 4 years old. If the current trajectory of climate change is played out, then by the time she is 24 the world will be a very different place. But what if the solutions available now were implemented now? What would that 2040 look like? Damon Gameau, Velvet’s father, describes his journey to answer these questions as “an exercise in fact-based dreaming”.
Climate documentaries often fall to simply reporting doom and gloom: Humans have pushed the world beyond a climate tipping point; the corals are dying; governments don’t care. But this rhetoric isn’t helpful. It leads to climate anxiety and feelings of despair. Gameau’s film, however, doesn’t focus on this. Instead, it looks at solutions which are available (or close to being available) now. And all of these solutions are win-win situations. Not only do they solve part of the climate crisis, they do so in a way which enables communities to flourish and make society more resilient.
Importantly, Gameau lets local people tell their own local stories which is vital for empowerment and amplification of often unheard voices
None of the solutions presented are science fiction which makes the positivity not just a welcome change, but genuinely useful. If governments were to give full support to the solutions investigated, we could be well on the way to solving the Climate Crisis. Although the film does touch briefly on this, I felt like Gameau could have included a solution to the issue of inaction by those who need to act (i.e., governments and big business). This absence can be filled through watching other films in the Climate Crisis Film Festival if you have access to it.
Despite this, the film does cover a good range of solutions. Gameau never claims that the list is exhaustive, but he does try to cover a solution from most of the broad themes for fixing the climate. What I appreciated was that even for the obvious technical solutions, they were coupled to less obvious societal changes.
For example, the first area the film covers is electricity. Solar panels are an obvious solution to this. This solution is already being used to create microgrids in rural and developing communities (such as those in Bangladesh). But less obvious is how these grids affect those using them. Having every home being an energy producer and consumer in a series of connected networks means the money spent on electricity stays within the community, rather than going to large multi-nationals or funnelled into government projects that don’t benefit the communities. This gives them autonomy and leads to the growth of small businesses and bustling marketplaces.
For each solution that exists in the real world, Gameau then postulates how it could be expanded by 2040 to act as a global solution to the Crisis. Microgrids can very easily be transferred to any country, city, or village. You could one day be in control the buying (of your neighbours) and selling (of your own) locally generated electricity. And with many interconnected networks working together the entire system becomes resilient to disasters in a way that centralised generation systems can never be.
Here though is another case of how the positivity prevents meaningful discussion. How do we incentivise governments to divest away from big electricity and oil/gas companies to allow the creation of such microgrids? Grassroots movement of us doing it ourselves have been shown to be somewhat effective, but it would be very easy for bad actors to legislate this possibility out of existence.
Gameau does an excellent job of explaining how each solution works and providing examples of it already working
The other solutions covered are regenerative agriculture (prevents carbon release from poor soils), marine permaculture (uses fast growing seaweed to renew ocean ecosystems and provide food), empowerment of women and girls (reduces population growth without the need for coercion), the circular economy (utilises waste as an input material reducing the amount of new materials we need to make), and the use of community-owned autonomous transport (frees up vast quantities of land currently used for parking that could be used for urban farms and green spaces, and reduces emissions associated with the manufacture and running of cars).
Gameau does an excellent job of explaining how each solution works and providing examples of it already working. Experts are interviewed throughout the film to verify and further explain the solutions. Weirdly a lot of the expert interviews are conducted on a green screen which places them as really small people sitting in monopoly cars or on a garden spade.
Importantly, Gameau lets local people tell their own local stories which is vital for the empowerment and amplification of often unheard voices: The people living in the developing countries hardest hit by the consequences of the Climate Crisis are not sitting idly waiting for the ‘West’ to save them; they are actively innovating and fighting the Crisis they did nothing to cause. This should be an important lesson for other filmmakers in this area.
Gameau’s 2040 is a family-friendly documentary with beautiful cinematography by Hugh Miller. The music by Bryony Marks propels the film forward, even if it does get rather saccharine at the end. Everyone should watch this film for a more positive, solution-oriented take on the Climate Crisis.
Captions available in English on the Film Festival site. Other languages may be available from other services.
In-article images courtesy of @climatecrisishub via instagram. No changes made to these images.
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