What the B-movie Geostorm got right about our climate reality (and what we can do about it)

I recently caught the movie Geostorm en route to the Sustainable Brands conference in Vancouver. It was one of those “here’s an easy movie that’ll knock out two hours of flight time” decisions. It unsurprisingly hit the conventional B-movie speed bumps, from shallow character development to overly contrived plot lines (See a mega-hurricane forming? Just toss some bomb pellets into the center and defuse it!). However, the movie did capture one piece of our current climate reality in the US pretty well: societal complacency.

The movie’s prologue describes its setting, a future where no climate action was taken until a global natural disaster mobilized the United Nations to pool their resources and create “Dutchboy”, a geo-engineered climate defense system. The point there is quite valid - that it took a calamitous event to actually catalyze society to do something about it (implying that none of the lip service done before it had any effect).

It’s not hard to see the same thing happening today, especially with the administration currently occupying the White House. Our Sustainability Defined listeners are not blind - deaf, rather - to this societal inaction. On top of our monthly breakdowns of wide-ranging sustainability topics where we include ways the listener can personally engage with each one, a question we continue to hear is, “Okay, but how can I further maximize my impact now?” Serendipitously, a compelling answer to that question appeared on my same exact flight to Vancouver, just minutes after Geostorm’s closing credits.

I sat a few rows behind and later split a cab with Andrew Winston, one of our first Sustainability Celebrities to come on the show. He asserted that the upcoming US midterm elections are nothing short of a national emergency (as much for climate issues as for social ones), echoing the argument that Earth Day 2018 is not April 22nd, but rather November 6th. His emphatic point: vote. A climate phenomenon this massive can only be addressed by collective, concerted action.

Of course, this is not to belittle the amazing work sustainability professionals are doing, especially Paul Hawken’s pioneering Project Drawdown, which we profile in Episode 32. I’m personally invigorated by the We Are Still In movement and the hundreds of scientists and STEM professionals running for public office in 2018. Still, Americans’ collective complacency must change. We can continue to champion current sustainability breakthroughs while at the same time recognizing that climate change will not be solved without a major societal shift.

We still have a few months before ballots are cast in November. You can get moving now by staying abreast of your local environmental issues (I like the National Conference of State Legislatures and Ballotpedia) and continuing to tune into our show as November nears.

Recall that no piece of collective action speaks louder than taking passion to the polls. We need to show the world that our voices - and votes - are just as effective at solving the climate crisis as Dutchboy’s hurricane-defusing bomb pellets… there just may be less cinematic effect.