The day after tomorrow

Green screen: Hollywood's big misses on the environment

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

A handful of comically bad eco-films.

B.C. fish farm licences extended: what you need to know

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Joyce Murray announced a two-year extension for dozens of salmon farm licences that were set to expire at the end of June.

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.

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion a money loser
Trans Mountain

Trans Mountain expansion a money loser for taxpayers

Independent parliamentary budget officer warns soaring costs means Trudeau’s 2018 purchase of the pipeline has gone wrong.

‘We see energy efficiency as an integral part of reducing health inequities’

Fraser Basin Council, winner of the Built Environment Land Award, is supporting the construction of First Nations housing.

State report: Texas environmental agency “reluctant” to regulate industry

A report from the state Sunset Advisory Commission found that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioners have become “reluctant” regulators and often encourage industry to “self police.”

New road fee hits hybrid and electric car owners in Louisiana

Hybrid and electric vehicle owners in Louisiana will soon have to pay an annual road fee to cover the state’s shrinking fuel tax revenue.

As feds eye more wind leases off Virginia, fishing industries fear losses

The U.S. is eyeing millions of acres off Virginia's coast as potential new wind energy sites. What does that mean for the state's fisheries?
From our Newsroom
Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Global Warming: Why the problem is worse – and solutions simpler – than you thought

Noted ecologist John Harte offers a fresh take on the dire topic of climate change.

Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

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