Archive for June, 2019

2040 Movie Review

2040 Movie Review
Robert Tulip (1000 words)

Damon Gameau is the writer, director, narrator, genius and star of his superb new movie 2040. Constantly friendly, engaging and upbeat, Damon enlists his sweet four-year old daughter Velvet as his model for the comparison between life in 2019 and 2040, with his innovative positive vision of how our world could be transformed over the next two decades to produce sustained abundance and peace, especially through innovative methods to stop climate change. The principle is to examine the best ideas of today to see how scaling them up can address the massive risks facing our planet, flicking between the present and the imagined future.

Damon’s last movie was That Sugar Film, in which he humorously confronted the sugar-industrial complex by switching for a month to a diet of processed “health food” that is high in sugar. The rapid collapse of his health, measured under careful medical supervision, proved how corrupted our advertising standards are when such a dangerous poison as sugar can be marketed as benign on a mass scale. Sugar causes our planetary epidemics of obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease and cancer, co-opting our incompetent political systems using the powers of money and instinct.

2040 uses similar analysis to attack the fossil fuel-industrial complex, showing the scale of deception and propaganda involved in maintaining our current energy system with its trajectory to conflict and collapse. Despite this scene setting, the main focus of the movie is positive, on new alternative ideas that offer practical solutions to primary global problems such as climate change, with the philosophy that a solution must be emerging before a problem can be solved.

The two big ideas explored on climate are soil and seaweed. A farmer, Fraser Pogue, tells the story of how industrial agriculture left him with fields with no worms, and how that scared him into adopting regenerative farming methods that can shift massive amounts of carbon from the air to the soil while delivering higher yields and fertile soil and retaining water.

The most important story in 2040 is Marine Permaculture. Brian Von Herzen is the brilliant genius inventor of methods to grow giant kelp on industrial scale in the world ocean to shift carbon out of the air and reduce ocean acidity while solving problems of food, fertilizer and fuel. Damon interviews Brian at his pilot kelp farm, and provides clear simple depiction of suitable places around the world where permaculture arrays could be deployed, such as in the Bay of Bengal and off the coast of East Africa.

The big theme here is carbon dioxide removal, that we need to work out how to remove more carbon from the air than we add, and how this requires practical profitable strategies that work with mother nature rather than against her, using the vast area, nutrients and energy resources of the world ocean. Seaweed forests are the fastest growing trees in the world. The proposed permaculture system will pump nutrients from the deep ocean to create biomass on a scale large enough to help achieve global carbon neutrality by 2040 while feeding ten billion people and starting a path to draw down excess CO2. Marine permaculture should be the start of a pioneering frontier use of the world ocean to restore climate and biodiversity, catalysing investment from governments and the private sector.

Damon Gameau is a card. He films his interview with Paul Hawken, author of the important climate restoration book Drawdown, apparently sitting high on top of a wind turbine, enough to give the viewers a highly disturbing case of vertigo. And his other expert speakers in the movie, such as Tony Seba, Kate Raworth, Eric Tonesmeier and Colin Seis, pop up as midgets sitting on tree branches or with other computer generated imagery, keeping their serious stories entertaining. Other innovative ideas covered include autonomous electric cars and decentralised solar power grids, showing an optimistic vision for how technology can transform our world for the better, through bottom up rather than top down solutions.

2040 is a conversation starter, with potential to help tip us over the edge into recognition of the need for global climate action, recognising that emission reduction is nowhere near enough. A theme I am eager to discuss in this context, having worked on carbon removal ideas for over a decade, is that methods of confrontation in climate politics pose unacceptable risks of proving too small and slow. Climate analysts need to do much more tactical and strategic work on political economy, philosophy and theory of change, for example recognising the urgency of solar radiation management, and the potential for carbon dioxide removal to enable a slower path to decarbonisation than some climate models suggest.

I would like to see the fossil fuel industries engage constructively on ways to transform their business models, but that seems to be a very difficult task. 2040 only mentions Exxon to demonise them for funding the Heartland Institute, showing how badly world politics are now polarised. The difficult but essential question is whether entry points can be found so forces of destruction can be converted into forces for good, for example through tax rebates for investment in carbon removal technology. We need to encourage an end to climate denial and more discussion of climate security problems in the media, while recognising that speeding up the decarbonisation of the economy is likely to only be a small factor in stabilising the climate compared to geoengineering methods.

Rather than using political confrontation, effective solutions often involve dialogue and reconciliation. A provocative theme I would throw into the 2040 mix is religion – opening discussion about how the seemingly obsolete patterns of thought involved in supernatural fantasy could actually still have some power to save us. Old ideas like the Christian myth of the apocalypse could be reconciled with modern scientific understanding to generate political will for action on climate change, building on religious values of faith, love, forgiveness and hope.

2040 is a visionary movie of hope and action. But the fact is, as a review in The Conversation notes, we are in a dire climate emergency, consumed by a vast and fearful blindness that seems unwilling to respond to the danger. The great ideas offered in 2040 may not be enough to solve the strategic security and stability situation facing our fragile planetary home. 2040 offers a framework of thinking, a starting point on this journey of transformation, a recognition that despite our flaws, humanity has the potential to rebuild the earth and restore the climate, finding the courage and honesty to evolve into a stable and sustainable global civilization.
Robert Tulip

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