Mild Dermatographia

Don't Look Up


I watched Don’t Look Up over Christmas and, while I thoroughly enjoyed it from a cinematic perspective, found that it was probably more mastubatory than revolutionary. Myself and those who I watched it with nodded our heads at the empassioned speeches, laughed at the flagrant real-life stand-ins, and lamented how cynical yet accurate the movie is to the current climate crisis. We finished the movie, felt a vague sense of moral superiority for being in-tune with the dismal state of the universe, and promptly moved on with our lives. It had no long-term impact, despite the urgency of the message it was extolling. Just like the ironic fictional apocalypse movie portrayed inception-style, this film is nothing more than an anti-feel-good piece that’s latching on to a relevant topic to make a quick buck, to be quickly forgotten. It’s the equivalent of thoughts and prayers in cinematic form.

While I partially agree with the Vox piece on DiCaprio not being a hypocrite for getting on a super yatcht despite being a climate activist, rich people as a whole still emit a metric fuckton more than everyone else. While the majority of emissions come from companies, a non-negligible fraction also come from individuals, so a group of individuals responsible for a significant portion of individual emissions could still make a significant impact.

The bigger story, perhaps, is that these companies wouldn’t be emitting if their products weren’t selling, ie., people weren’t buying! The largest emittors are virtually all oil companies. If people flew and drove less, they’d produce less. If people bought less plastic products, they’d produce less. If people bought less everything, not just plastics, then the tooling used to build those items would be built less, and those oil companies would produce less. Dismissing individual accountability by pinning the blame on companies pretends that these companies extract resources and pump out emissions for the fun of it. They do it because their production is paid for and consumed by us, in the end. Heck, global emissions dropped by 6 percent during covid due to a reduction in travel and consumption. That’s not negligible, and it certainly isn’t because new mandates forced large emission producers to cut back, but because individuals stopped travelling and consuming as much.

(I’m also all for measures to force a reduction in emissions from large companies, and for us to pressure governments to be less wasteful as well. I’m just focusing on individuals here; I was originally motived to write this because of the DiCaprio yacht nonsense).

Of course, this whole post is a load of hypocrisy, because I’m currently in California visiting my partner, a 12-hour flight away from home. I recently bought noise-cancelling headphones for the flight, despite having okay-ish, if not uncomfortable, non-noise-cancelling ones. I’m looking at new backpacks, not because my old one is broken to the point of being unusable, but because it’s inconveniently large for my current lifestyle.