Happy Earth Day! Today is a great day to go outside and appreciate nature, or take it one step further and find ways to help the environment. The holiday, organized mainly by the Earth Day Network, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and even Google has taken notice, as you can see from the doodle above. So, let’s take a look at the impact of Earth Day on films and television.
There have been only two movies that have actually used the title “Earth Day”, and neither are very noteworthy. However, the principles of Earth Day can be found in hundreds of films, both directly and indirectly. The obvious example is James Cameron’s Avatar, which was smartly released on DVD and Blu-ray today. The film’s theme clearly centers on the time-honored tradition of painting humans as glutenous machines looking to devour every resource nature can give them, with complete disregard for the impact it has.
Since a large percentage of filmmakers in Hollywood lean more liberal, it’s natural for them to want to input their opinions on conservation into their films. They can make the film more important (or at least look it) by giving it a bigger theme. Avatar isn’t just about the Na’vi defeating the humans, it’s about the connection of the species with nature.
A lot of films warn about the dangers of human greed and technological advancement, and many take it a step further by showing how greed and disregard for consequences can actually destroy nature. Movies like FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Wall-E go the direct nature route by focusing the film on that topic. However, the environmental damage is often shown as a byproduct of the premise as well. The Matrix could be seen as having an environmental theme. Look at how the surface and atmosphere of the Earth have been destroyed thanks to the war between us and the machines. The Terminator series is another prime example of how more tech equals bad for Earth.
Along those lines, war in general can become an environmental issue in films. We’ve seen how a war between man and machine wreaks havoc on nature, but even regular war is costly to Earth. Nuclear weapons not only destroy any life in the blast area, but the radiation and potential atmospheric obstructive could ultimately be the worst effects. The Day The Earth Stood Still opened our eyes to how this might impact alien species. The organic resources on Earth were so important to the aliens that they were willing to kill all humans to protect the planet.
There are also countless films and documentaries that just celebrate nature and what Earth has to offer. My favorite example is the Discovery/BBC series Planet Earth, along with the other series the joint venture has created. We should also take time to appreciate entertainment companies like Discovery and National Geographic, who provide great content that explores the world and beyond, as well as promotes conservation.
So, what are you going to do for Earth Day? What are your favorite films or television shows that promote conservation? Earth Day was founded on April 22nd, 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. Though the date has changed throughout the years, the holiday is now always celebrated on the 22nd. You can learn more about Earth Day itself and how to help this year at EarthDay.org.