Don't Look Up!

The film starts with the scientific discovery: observation of the comet and mathematical calculations to determine its trajectory and proximity to Earth. Correct procedures are followed and very quickly the three main protagonists are sent to the White House. From this point on, things getting increasingly strange, and increasingly resonant with the modern world.

What's particularly piercing in the film is the accuracy in portraying a group of citizens, including proponents of the scientific method, imploring fellow citizens, media institutions and political power to take this threat seriously and respond accordingly. For much of the film, life continues as normal, when in fact what is required is immediate, widespread, emergency planning to avert catastrophe. The parallels with the current historical moment are almost painful (at least for me) in capturing the increasing severity and momentum of ecological devastation, coupled with an increasingly apathetic, corporate media-distracted and polarised citizenry.

"We're all going to die!"

"We're all going to fucking die!" - the refusal to take this message seriously and instead create toxic memes that are more concerned with the aesthetics of the expression and its articulator, without engaging on an intellectual, emotional or, indeed, even a primal survival level. There is a numb-ness, the amount of technological distraction available contributes to people avoiding feeling what needs to be felt to compel cognizant action. The film also references the way technology is being used to replace genuine friendship and connection, with a bias towards happy or 'positive' feelings, and never feeling sad or lonely. The constant references to Xanax also implicate a profit-driven pharmaceutical model that seeks to moderate behaviour and maintain a 'happy' and 'light' culture at all times. I know for many activists, myself included, this portrayal will be warmly received to convey the experience of continued censoring of difficult information in social settings as a result of it being too 'heavy', 'deep' or 'depressing'.

But what if the perspective we need now is precisely one of imminent death? Indeed, there is certainly enough credible information out there to suggest environmental impacts could lead to a rapid diminishment of social structures necessary to maintain our food, energy, infrastructure and communication systems. And then what? It seems entirely plausible to me in our highly fractious technology-mediated culture that violent conflict, increased polarisation and self-preservation politics will prevail. I think this would mean death for most of us, either as the result of a changing climate or the result of humans maladaptation to a changing climate.

Perhaps this "we're all going to fucking die" meme can be helpful, if we really let it in. If we really can feel, collectively, the severity of our situation and begin to work together, and to share the resources we have (monetarily, and in terms of land, knowledge, skills, etc.). This can't happen unless this is also accompanied by a willingness to acknowledge history and the deep wounds of domination through empire and colonial and neo-colonial violence. I think that whilst this might not 'save us', it offers the opportunity to live, and die, beautifully together. Lets begin the repair work, lets begin to look at the festering wounds all over our beautiful planet, in our relationship with other species and ecosystems, in our human relationships, and within ourselves. Despite all the distraction and spin available to us, lets do our best to not look away. Yes, 'we're all going to fucking die!', but the truth is, we always were, and that may just be the medicine to help us look up.