The documentary 2040 (or visual diary as it has been referred to) does a good job of putting a positive outlook on the future by emphasising solutions, things that can be done to mitigate climate change, including but not limited to local solar electricity networks, kelp farms as a future protein source, and a move away from private car ownership toward more efficient transport systems.
I’m a father too, so I understand the film maker’s desire to put his young child (daughter in this case) at the centre of the story, imagining a better world for her early adult years and beyond.
But, as uplifting and inspiring as 2040 is, it doesn’t go nearly far enough in my view.
What bothers me about the film is how anthropocentric it is. In what follows, I give examples of how its vision falls short. I may be accused by some of being overly critical of what is an otherwise heart-felt, genuine labour of love, but so be it.
There is a section in which a farmer is interviewed and there is talk of farming practices to improve the health of the soil, which is great. But the true costs of animal agriculture in terms of emissions (comparable to the whole transport sector) and animal welfare are not really addressed.
Near the end of the film, there is a self-congratulatory comment about how much less meat people will eat by 2040. We are already seeing a trend towards eating less meat and towards other protein alternatives.
Primary-school aged children were interviewed throughout. Their insights sometimes bordered on the profound and were often more wise than the adult utterances. The kid who talked about planting a seed and getting meat was on the money, if the rise of the lab grown meat industry is anything to go by, as was the girl who liked bacon but wasn’t sure she should eat it because of its source. These are the sorts of comments that get an uncomfortable “isn’t that cute” laugh from the audience, the members of whom may more-or-less dismiss the seriousness of the points being made.
There is a rushed and insipid comment by the film maker about the existence of some nice meat alternatives as supplements (not potential replacements), but no meaningful concession to the need for a totally plant based diet, just that we should be heading toward eating more plants: a no brainer since that’s what the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines have been telling us for almost a decade anyway!
At one point the future daughter asks her off-screen father “what were you thinking” regarding our generation’s shipping of fish long distance, as opposed to “what were you thinking” by engaging in the act of industrial scale fishing at all, with its attendant destruction of the ocean environment, species population decimation and untold suffering.
The film ends with a jubilant young generation having a party, but it’s a little too soon for much celebration it would seem to me, when there is no sign that any serious attempt to tackle speciesism (arguably, a barometer of our maturity as a species) has been made, and we are in 2040 likely still too narcissistic to think much beyond the end of our collective noses.
In short, 2040 is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and to be fair, that’s consistent with the film maker’s focus on what we can do in future derived from what approaches exist today.
But I think we should want to do even better than what is proposed by 2040, if we are not only going to mitigate the worst of effects of climate change for Australia and the world in general, but also to be able to look our future selves in the mirror and consider homo sapiens worthy of a place as anything like competent stewards of this planet.