How Many Times Can a Young Climate Activist Watch Don’t Look Up?
At seventeen, I don’t know a great many things, but one thing I do know is that I have watched Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up an unhealthy amount since its release on Netflix.
Because of this, I’ve recently learned I enjoy torturing myself — Don’t Look Up is a bleak reminder of the future of our world without substantial and immediate climate action.
The first day I watched Don’t Look Up, I immediately went on Twitter and tweeted “don’t look up was so climate change” because I’m edgy, fun, and young. Then, I proceeded to do work related to climate protection for hours, and whilst doing so, realized for the second time that week that people in power are not taking the future of our world seriously. When I finished my activist work for the day, to “relax,” I decided to watch the movie again.
I woke up the next day and thought “let’s do that again,” so I washed, rinsed, and repeated these actions.
On the third day of watching Don’t Look Up, I realized that there was a clear issue. Although, not with the movie. I think it is a truly accessible way for passive supporters of climate action to realize the nuances of our crisis and start to actually get more invested and involved in addressing climate change. I imagine them watching and wondering what is going on with climate legislation, what they can do to help, and question what leaders in positions of power are doing.
On day four of my Don’t Look Up journey, it was a Monday. Time for my call with my therapist, Susan. It’s become a new game of mine to justify rewatching a “sad” movie by telling my therapist that I enjoy putting myself in the shoes of different groups of characters each hour and want to discuss what they must be going through — be it through viewing our climate situation through the eyes of different family members, journalists, the President, etc.
On day five, it was time to be Dr. Mindy and Kate, both climate experts in the movie, and this finally broke me. Pretending to be the researchers who are under immense stress and pressure while delivering terrible truths about the future of climate change day after day was emotionally taxing — and I was just trying to resonate with characters in a movie!
In this case, art truly mimics life, because behind the depictions of Dr. Mindy, Dr. Oglethorpe, and Kate are real people. People like Kate are visibly stressed, distressed, and disregarded because of their work, and yet remain committed to informing the public and our leaders about climate change. I think it’s easy to forget that they also have families and loved ones. Like Dr. Mindy, they may discover disheartening data on the climate crisis, go home, try to smile, and have to deal with their own family’s issues. Climate experts are not just taking care of their households and attempting to cherish the people and things that they hold dear. They go to work and attempt to save the rest of the world too.
If you can’t read the numbers or won’t listen to the news, allow me to tell you: Our climate crisis situation is worsening daily and we are running out of time! And when we finally received the biggest, most influential piece of legislation that could tackle so many issues at once, including climate change, we were stalled by lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin, who is more worried about the unforeseen costs of childcare than the very known costs of rejecting Build Back Better.
How many times do we have to tell politicians like Senator Manchin that the planet is dying and there is no more time to waste? How many times do we have to reiterate that the window of prevention is nearly closed? Why do lawmakers act like climate change talk is annoying?
I appreciate that Don’t Look Up does not spread false hope, and instead keeps our climate crisis painfully real. All we will have left to do, if we don’t act now, is to sit around the table with our loved ones, pray, and eat fingerling potatoes while waiting for our world to die.
I’m tired of pretending that I’m not terrified. I’m terrified that if we continue to reject legislation like Build Back Better, the corporations that fund Manchin will remain more important than the lives of the individuals he was elected to serve. While old politicians in power get to accumulate insane wealth and power, my generation will have to pick up the pieces of their catastrophic decisions and try to live with what they didn’t do.
Nnennaya Ihejirikah is a 17-year old Our Climate fellow from Houston, Texas. Nnennaya graduated high school in May 2021 with an Associates of Science from Houston Community College. She currently attends Howard University in Washington, DC as an Environmental Studies major and Spanish minor. Her Nigerian roots and experience as a Black woman highly influence her environmental activism. Outside of climate work and advocating for Build Back Better, she spends her free time reading, going to the movies, and consuming too much TV.