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But, really, the quality of the film as a film is hardly the point. By engaging with climate change, the most serious and catastrophic issue of our times, it has taken on a far wider significance. Its importance lies in how it resonates with a society that is deeply conflicted and confused about the events it portrays.
The real disaster is that The Day After Tomorrow has seized public attention with an absurd and implausible theory with no scientific basis – that climate change will usher in the next ice age. This story line was taken from the best-selling book The Coming Global Superstorm, whose authors, Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, are self-publicising fantasists. Strieber wrote the bestseller Communion about the experience of being anally probed during an alien abduction. Bell dedicates his late-night radio talk show to UFOs and government conspiracies. By drawing on their version of reality, the film only strengthens the widespread perception that climate change is just another paranoid fantasy without scientific basis.
It also singularly fails to mention the causes of climate change. There is just one moment at the end of the film when the Dick Cheney-lookalike US vice-president warns of the dangers of the misuse of “natural resources”; but which natural resources? Sand? Rubber? Broccoli? Although director Roland Emmerich is labouring under the delusion that this is a politically challenging film (“I don’t think we will be invited to show this picture in the White House,” he says), there is nothing here to upset George Bush.
The credits claim that the emissions generated in the production of the film (10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide: the equivalent to the annual emissions of 230,000 Cambodians) have been “neutralised” by tree-planting company Future Forests. The science behind Future Forests is scarcely stronger than the science behind the film; trees do absorb carbon dioxide, but they readily release it, too, when they die or burn. They are, at best, a temporary resting place for carbon on its way back to the atmosphere. Future Forests is not really concerned with stopping climate change; it offers its customers absolution for their carbon sins. They can keep burning as much fossil fuels as they like in exchange for planting a few trees. And who could object to that?
The irony is, there is no shortage of legitimate predictions about climate change that are terrifying: heat waves that burn up every living thing; new plagues; millions of starving environmental refugees on the move; desperate wars to defend water supplies and habitable land; the wholesale conflagration of ancient forests, including the entire Amazon rainforest; and, most terrifying of all, global warming triggering the rapid release of millions of tons of frozen methane hydrate deposited under the oceans, thus triggering a runaway and unstoppable greenhouse effect.
So it would have been entirely possible to have produced a disaster movie with awesome special effects in which every single event could have been referenced to a swathe of academic research. The problem for moviemakers with these story lines, and with climate change as a whole, is that they are irreversible. The disaster movie genre requires some possibility of rescue. But real climate change does not end. No one is rescued. The best we can hope for is that things stop getting worse. And the longer we delay facing the reality of what climate change is, the less chance there is of that happening.George Marshall works for the environmental campaign groups Rising Tide and the Climate Outreach Information Network.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Labour’s NEC has started to empower party members – but we still have a mountain to climb
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament