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

Mining coal in your garden is a lucrative business in Poland

A shortage of fuel for households because of the war in Ukraine has spawned a cottage industry of illegal digging.
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.

Criticism mounts of ‘climate killer’ modern art museum in Berlin

A vast modern art museum under construction in Berlin has been castigated by conservation experts and architecture critics for its poor environmental credentials, as the energy crisis intensifies scrutiny of the efficiency of new buildings.

Corn nourishes the Hopi identity, but climate-driven drought is stressing the tribe’s foods and traditions

Most Hopi grow corn with only the precipitation that falls on their fields, but two decades of drought have some of them testing the waters of irrigation and hoping they can preserve other customs with their harvests.

Türkiye's Kocaeli receives serious drought warning

A decrease in precipitation and continued water use has resulted in a serious drought in Kocaeli, which only has enough water to last 58 more days.

French police guard water as seasonal drought intensifies

New reservoirs designed to supply French farms with water in increasingly arid growing seasons have attracted opposition from environmentalists.

Climate concern the main reason voters swung to independents at federal election, study finds

Concern about the climate crisis was the No 1 issue that prompted Australians to switch their vote to an independent candidate at this year’s federal election, according to in-depth social research.

Indigenous group pushed off island as Caribbean Sea rises

A community plans to move to a new Panama subdivision as climate scientists say their entire archipelago will be submerged in decades.
From our Newsroom
katharine hayhoe

Peter Dykstra: Journalists I’m thankful for

My third annual list of the over-achieving and under-thanked.

sperm count decline shanna swan

A new analysis shows a “crisis” of male reproductive health

Global average sperm count is declining at a quicker pace than previously known, chemical exposure is a suspected culprit.

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

WATCH: The latest evidence of widespread sperm count decline

"Pregnant women, and men planning to conceive a pregnancy, have a responsibility to protect the reproductive health of the offspring they are creating."

sperm count decline

Frequently asked questions on the new sperm count decline study

Sperm counts are declining everywhere — the implications are huge.

midterm elections

Peter Dykstra: Environmental takeaways from Election Day

What happened and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t happen?

coal pennsylvania

Former coal plant near Pittsburgh is poisoning groundwater: Report

Groundwater near the site contains arsenic levels 372 times higher than safety threshold. Coal ash sites across the U.S. are seeing similar contamination.

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