The day after tomorrow

Green screen: Hollywood's big misses on the environment

A handful of comically bad eco-films.

Hollywood's attempts to green its screens have seen some pretty wildly mixed results.


Let's set aside the clear triumphs, like Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action. Some of cinema's environmental screen efforts have been...eclectic? Here are a few proposed awards for movie missteps.

The Oscar for eco-trend-spotting goes to...

Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster

It almost goes without saying that this film is in a league of its own. Believed to be the 21st movie in the Godzilla franchise, Smog Monster shows us a kinder, gentler Godzilla—one that protects Tokyo rather than stomp the city to bits.

Anyway, Hedorah is a tiny creature that rides a meteorite to Earth, where it grows to enormous size by gorging itself on Tokyo's postwar recovery's smoke and sludge—spitting oil, blowing smog and slinging goo all over the city. A cadre of 1971 hippies—the heart of Japan's nascent environment movement—summon Godzilla, setting up an epic showdown between our gallant reptile and his (her?) gooey, flying foe. (There's a healthy, 60 year battle over Godzilla's gender still a-blazin' among the Big Reptile's followers).

Yes, this movie is every last bit as bad as it sounds. Run, don't walk, as fast as you can, away from this one.

Released in dubbed-in English in 1972, Smog Monster deftly preyed on the first big wave of the global environmental movement.

The Oscar for sanctimony goes to…..

Waterworld

Who could ask for more than the dreamy Kevin Costner, with gills?

This dystopian 1995 stinker is literally all at sea, with Costner prowling the oceans in search of the mythical Dryland. At some indeterminate future date, a few desperadoes struggle to survive at sea, dodging "smokers" who hoard the last precious fossil fuel.

Costner sails alone, refining his own pee for fresh drinking water and growing a few precious lemons to fend off scurvy. He's a climate hero like no other.

The Oscar for trend-following AND sanctimony goes to...

The Day After Tomorrow

Picture this: Ice abruptly splits beneath an Arctic research station. A prestigious UK lab notices things going haywire. Hours later, there are three simultaneous tornadoes in Downtown L.A. and you can't get a cab in Manhattan because they're all under 70 feet of ice.

Days of world-changing disaster that would make COVID-19 look like a coffee break follow—none of which slow either Dennis Quaid nor Jake Gyllenhall down from chasing romances.

Climate science couldn't get any more showbiz than this.

Supporting actors

There are several supporting performances in enviro-themed flicks both good and bad that deserve mention.

In 2004, Canadian character actor Kenneth Becker played a U.S. Vice President who looked, talked, and denied an awful lot like Dick Cheney. He looked on in horror as the climate went ka-blooey in Day After Tomorrow.

And in Waterworld, a positively maniacal Dennis Hopper skippered the post-Apocalyptic Exxon Valdez.

If there were an Oscar for denial, my all-time fave would be Murray Hamilton. As tourist season approached Amity Island in Jaws, Hamilton's Mayor Vaughn told all who would listen that reports of shark attacks at the beach were simply a ploy by scientists to snag a photo op in National Geographic.

But my most memorable environmental bit player comes from a critically-acclaimed movie, Hitchcock's The Birds. Painfully out-of-place in sleepy Bodega Bay, Mrs. Bundy (Ethel Griffies) is transformed in a few short scenes from a know-it-all birdwatcher to a woman whose life's interests are literally plunging from the sky.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: The Day After Tomorrow

New study confirms: Structural racism in STEM programs needs fixing

“Our study indicates that something is happening in the classes themselves."

A groundbreaking paper published last month in PNAS Nexus, a sibling journal to the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, offers stark quantitative data showing the continued blight of structural racism in academic STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs in the United States.

Keep reading...Show less
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

This scientist uses drones and algorithms to save whales — and the rest of the ocean

This scientist uses drones and algorithms to save whales — and the rest of the ocean

Ocean scientist Douglas McCauley is working to protect an increasingly-industrialized sea by showing what’s happening under the waves — before it's too late.
small farmers can fix our broken food system
manhhai/Flickr

Ukraine is showing the world how small farmers can fix our broken food system

Global hunger is rising amid war, inflation, and a pandemic—but it’s not because of a lack of food.

Kate Aronoff: Is the gas industry really being canceled?

At this week’s North American Gas Forum in D.C., industry representatives weren’t celebrating their record profits. They were whining about “being attacked on a daily basis” by Democrats and environmentalists.

Arnhem Land traditional owners produce 13-metre map petition to lobby against Roper River water use

A group of traditional owners concerned about new water-thirsty industries in the Northern Territory have asked a Melbourne artist to paint them a huge map of their country, which they plan to present to the federal government.

Last Resort: Moving endangered species in order to save them

Scientists have long warned that climate change and other threats will require relocating some endangered species outside their historic ranges. U.S. officials are proposing rules that would enable them to use this new, potentially controversial conservation tool.

How 5 Black female clergy leaders are building a network of climate activists

The Black Church-The Green Movement is training hundreds of pastors across the country to educate their congregations on climate change and environmental racism.
From our Newsroom
Op-ed: On climate protests, the media misses the point

Op-ed: On climate protests, the media misses the point

What does van Gogh matter to billions of victims of climate inaction?

EPA Michael Regan

EPA's chemical safety rule tests the Biden administration’s commitment to environmental justice

"Cure never happens, prevention never happens in a community where people are sacrificed for others’ gain."

Chemical recycling grows  along with concerns of its impacts

Chemical recycling grows — along with concerns about its environmental impacts

Industry says chemical recycling could solve the plastic waste crisis, but environmental advocates and some lawmakers are skeptical.

Failure of the universities: The culture gap is now near lethal

Universities are failing us

Our educational systems are failing to prepare people for existential environmental threats

Shell's new petrochemical complex in southwestern Pennsylvania

The Titans of Plastic

Pennsylvania becomes the newest sacrifice zone for America’s plastic addiction.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.