2049 (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Hoping for a better future

These days, I often find myself worrying over the future of human civilization. While the signs of global climate change are increasing here and there all over the world, we are still not doing enough to stop this alarming trend which may ultimately lead to the end of human civilization during this century, and we have even been accelerating the rate of global climate change further while mostly oblivious to the heavy consequences to come within next several decades.

Especially after observing how this summer has been quite hot, wet, and humid with the record-breaking amount of rain in South Korea, I am reminded more of that inconvenient but undeniable fact that we are indeed passing the point of no return, and that is why I initially had some skepticism on the hopeful attitude of documentary film “2049”, but it eventually brightened up my mood a little as showing me how much we can still do even at this point. Yes, the current situation is irreversible to say the least, but the documentary makes a convincing argument on how we should change our way of life in more than one aspect, and it made me reflect more on why we should try and hope more for not only ourselves but also the future generations to succeed us.

At the beginning, director/writer/co-producer Damon Gameau tells us how he came to be motivated to make the documentary. As watching his little daughter growing up along with his wife, he becomes more concerned about the future of his daughter and her generation, and so he came to decide to make a documentary which dares to envision how things can be better for her and her generation via a number of significant social and technological changes which can actually be possible at present.

After a mandatory visual presentation on how global climate change has been boosted by the enormous emission of carbon dioxide due to the rapid industrial development around the world during the 19-20th century, Gameau promptly focuses on one very interesting way to produce electricity without any air pollution in contrast to fossil fuel. As many of you know, solar energy has drawn lots of attention as one of clean alternative sources, and, thanks to the rapid technology development during last several decades, it is now actually possible to provide electricity to several slum neighborhoods in Bangladesh through one solar panel on each household. Besides providing each household enough electricity for daily life, it is also possible to store electricity or trade it among those households, and the ongoing success of this social/economic experiment may lead to a vast change in energy industry someday in the future.

After seeing how much human life can be improved by solar energy and its flexible storage/trade network, Gameau envisions how things will be different for his daughter and her generation in 2040, and he presents this bright vision on the screen with some sense of humor. Around that time, we may not depend on fossil fuel any more, and that will certainly contribute to the decrease of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane in the atmosphere of the Earth.

Because there are millions of vehicles depending on fossil fuel at present, Gameau naturally comes to pay attention to what can be possible alternatives in the future. While electric cars surely come to your mind, the documentary boldly suggests that we can do more far than that as making those electric vehicles into 100% public properties. After all, we will probably soon enter the era of automatic driving, and it is probably the best for us to walk away from our current concept of car ownership. Imagine how much space we may save as reducing the number of private vehicles – and how much we may utilize those remaining spaces for our common good.

Another significant cause of carbon dioxide emission is agriculture industry, and the documentary shows us several possible ways which not only decrease carbon dioxide emission but also remove carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One farmer shows us a certain traditional way of agriculture which is beneficial in more than one way in addition to removing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that certainly reminds me again of that inarguable importance of healthy soil environment. In case of one scientist, he talks a lot about how we can take care of the environmental damage to the oceans caused by the global climate change, and, as a guy who has been quite alarmed by what is presented in Netflix documentary “Chasing Coral” (2017), I certainly welcome his proposals.

While clearly recognizing many social obstacles on our road including those deplorable public tactics of fossil fuel industry corporations, Gameau remains hopeful nonetheless as keeping hoping for a better world for his daughter and many other young girls out there. As pointed out at the around the end of the documentary, women’s rights for education and birth control are also actually quite crucial for reducing carbon dioxide emission because they will contribute a lot to the decrease of human population, which will then lead to less consumption of energy and resource. Unfortunately, there are still millions of women stuck in poverty, ignorance, and exploitation out there in the world, and that is why we should listen more to those passionate human rights activists such as Malala Yousafzai.

Overall, “2049” is a reasonably optimistic letter to our future generation which is also entertaining and enlightening enough to engage us, and it reminds me that we really need hope and optimism even though it is a bit too late for us now. We may totally have screwed up our planet, but there are still ways to remedy what has been broken and damaged, and we really should step forward right now for lessening whatever our future generation will have to endure – and helping them survive and prevail, of course.

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