Velvet Gameau is four years old. Her world is on the brink of a climate crisis. International agreements haven’t resulted in the necessary action to combat massive changes to the climate, and it turns out that changing all of our light bulbs to LEDs hasn’t done it either. The United Nations has painted a picture of Velvet’s future — if we haven’t transformed our approach to climate action by 2040, the sea level could rise by 0.26-0.77m; we’ll see more intense cyclones, floods and other extreme weather events, more frequently; up to 99 per cent of our coral reefs could be lost forever.
Luckily for Velvet, her dad has hope for a better world, a world where we take action now. Filmmaker Damon Gameau calls his film 2040 ‘an exercise in fact-based dreaming’. He’s read the science, heard the warnings and now he’s on a mission to show the world that the solutions actually already exist — we just need to listen, and use them.
2040 is 21 years from now, so we can’t wait around for new solutions to come about. Gameau instead showcases what he thinks are the things we need to change the world. From solar microgrids to driverless vehicles, 2040 is a parade of hopeful technologies that, if adopted on a mass scale, Gameau believes will lead us down a pathway to a safer climate future.
Is he right? Maybe. It’s the deeper moments of the film, however, such as the discussion of mass economic transformation with economist Kate Raworth (famous for her ‘Doughnut Economics’ approach that recognises planetary and social boundaries as central to a flourishing economy), or Paul Hawken’s insistence that the top priority for transforming the world is empowering and supporting women to have autonomy over their bodies, education and lives, that highlight a brighter pathway forward. The technological fixes Gameau proposes are empowering communities and improving lives — the wide-scale changes he learns about in the process could change the planet.
The documentary treads the line between scaring us into taking action and creating a narrative of hope just enough that you may come away from this film amped up and wanting to do something. But we can do even more than some of the individual choices pitched at the end of this documentary. In the (paraphrased) words of the great Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, the greatest thing an individual can do is join a collective movement and push for changes that are big enough to matter — the sort of changes Raworth and Hawken promote in 2040. In Aotearoa, here are some of the groups you can join up with and support:
Or check out the local campaigns happening around you.
2040 is in cinemas from 22 August 2019.