Climate change can be viewed in terms of the typical school essays highlighting the environmental concerns that every student has been obligated to write at some point, or perhaps to tedious climate treaties with over-ambitious goals signed between nations for international cooperation.
But I will be presenting a rather atypical approach to reach out to the society and invoke a response to climate action.
Many often fail to see beyond the role of film industry as a mere source of entertainment. It is, in fact, a tremendous and influential visual medium to evolve the mindset of the people and society.
I’m going to discuss movies which will kindle the inner climate activist within the viewers and appeal to them in ways verbose articles cannot.
Happy Feet — a 2006 animated musical, as the name suggests, begins as a light-hearted family movie.
In a world where penguins sing songs to find their mates, our protagonist Mumble is an oddball who can only tap dance. Throughout the movie, he struggles with this ‘disability’ of not being able to sing. He tries to seek his true identity and be accepted by his colony, while being frequently ridiculed by his fellow members.
However, the most interesting aspect of the film, in my opinion, is its perceptive portrayal of the impact human activities, namely the negative ones, have upon the habitation of other species that homo sapiens share the planet with, straight from the perspective of animals themselves.
Mumble in his various adventures (and mis-adventures) comes across the humans who are referred to as ‘aliens’ and ‘mystical beings’ among the animal community.
He once meets a penguin who is found choking on plastic rings which got snagged on him while he was swimming off the ‘forbidden shore’. Our hero being the ever-inquisitive little penguin he was, goes to investigate only to get washed up on the strand of Australia where he is rescued and confined in Marine World.
Mumble tries fruitlessly to communicate with the humans during his period of long and secluded confinement, which results in him nearly succumbing to insanity.
This unexpected plot development is sure to rack the viewers, who will have a hard time wrapping their heads around the trauma our main lead faces.
Fortunately, there is an instance when Mumble starts dancing and garners the attention of humans, ultimately getting released back into the wild with a tracking device attached to his back.
A research team follows Mumbles as he returns to his colony and later returns with their expedition footage, prompting a worldwide debate.
This leads to governments finally taking a stance to ban all Antarctic fishing.
The movie ends with all the penguins rejoicing this move of the “aliens”, celebrating Mumble as their saviour by singing as well as dancing.
Considering that the target audience of the movie was predominantly children, it is likely that they will be sensitized towards the impact of anthropological climate change from a very young age, from watching this movie.
Anyone, for that matter, who watches this movie, would be induced to reflect upon the profound portrayal of the pathetic condition animals are subjected to, living at the mercy of humans and would continue to, for the measures being undertaken till now simply don’t suffice.
Erin Brockovich is a 2000 Hollywood legal drama based on the true story of an American legal clerk, consumer advocate and environmental activist of the same name.
Now let me first assure you that this is not some conventional documentary with a mere narration of events, but will indeed keep the audience hanging onto every scene with its gripping plotline and brilliantly developed script.
Not surprisingly, the film received five nominations at the 73rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Julia Roberts who stars as Erin (which she won), and Best Supporting Actor.
Coming back to story, it all begins when in 1993, Erin Brockovich, an unemployed single mother of three children, is handed the files of a real estate case where Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) seeks to purchase the home of a resident of Hinkley, California.
When the unassuming Erin uncovers many shocking facts pertaining to the matter, and decides to stand up against a California based utility corporation, little does she expect that her case would turn out to be awarded the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in United States history.
The movie however, doesn’t sugar coat this tale of success and instead starkly depicts the toils and trials she faces on the path to seek justice.
Erin first finds it suspicious that the owners of the house, who had a history of suffering from various tumours, had been treated by doctors at PG&E’s cost.
She then, on her own efforts, pulls up evidence on the severe contamination of Hinkley’s ground water supply with carcinogenic chromium.
Erin and her office head-Ed discover numerous medical problems in Hinkley, and that virtually everyone had been treated by PG&E’s doctors who had kept them in the dark about the actual cause of their ailment — pernicious chromium dumped by PG&E in the water sources.
Knowing that PG&E’s retaliation to a trial by jury would be to slow any settlement for years through delays and appeals, Ed and Erin pursue a binding arbitration.
Erin personally takes it upon herself to build a personal bond with each of Hinkley’s residents, and finally manages to win their trust, amassing a total of 634 plaintiffs.
All this while, PG&E being the influential and wealthy corporation that it was, kept making things difficult for them by clearing off any concrete evidence that pointed at them.
Erin is then reached out by a former employee at PG&E, who had lost his cousin due to the chemical exposure at PG&E, handing her certain documents that he was meant to destroy but had not.
My personal favourite scene comes next when PG&E, knowing that the documents would be a lethal blow, request for a proposition with a lump sum of money in return for withdrawal of lawsuit. Erin slams them up and pointedly refuses.
She ultimately turns in the papers, which included a 1966 memo proving that corporate headquarters knew that the water was contaminated with pernicious chromium, and had advised PG&E Hinkley to keep this secret.
The Judge then orders PG&E to pay a settlement amount of $333 million to be distributed among the plaintiffs.
Masry & Vititoe, the law firm for which Brockovich was a legal clerk, received $133.6 million of that settlement, and Brockovich received $2.5 million as part of her fee.
Erin, who immediately becomes a sensation for the success of the lawsuit, goes on to take up many more such cases based on anti-pollution matters by representing the victimized people against massive corporates.
Erin’s tale is an inspiration that resonates with so many mundane people who have witnessed similar sufferings, and might feel oppressed standing up to colossal business conglomerates or dominant political organisations.
Erin was a woman who had nothing when she began her fight, neither remunerative support nor anyone to have her back. But her passionate spirit, thirst for righteousness and undying perseverance was indeed a force to reckon with.
– Shruti Nilla, Amity International School, Noida