Don’t Look Up, An Allegory of Reality

A recent movie, “Don’t look up”, starred by Leonardo DiCaprio, has become the subject of talk. Before discussing the movie, I’ll have to give a brief summary. It starts with two astronomers spotting a comet heading towards earth to wipe all creatures out of existence. They warned the president, who at first didn’t take it seriously but only started to take action when it gave her a better chance at the re-election. She brings on the best to tackle the issue, and everything seems like it will be fine. But at the last moment, they realized that the comet was made of rare, valuable material, so they canceled the mission. The billionaire that funded the president’s campaign devised another strategy to try and extract the material. The mission, of course (big spoiler), fails, and the comet wipes out humanity. However, the president and other billionaires jet off to another planet and save themselves.


The movie was taken by most news and magazine outlets like the Wall Street Journal, NYTimes, and ABC news as too obvious, stating that the main idea is that humans are too carried away by the pop culture and narcissistic to care about the end of the world. But they miss out on the actual points behind the movie, which is that the plot parallels reality. Firstly, major economists such as William Nordhaus, noble laureate, claim that the effect of climate change on the economy will be subtle and such not placing must immediacy on the matter, which is based on abysmal empirical research. And many propose geoengineering solutions to climate change using cheap infant technology (relative to other solutions) but very risky, just like the billionaire solution in the movie.


Furthermore, its portrayal of modern democracy is spot on, which is that policy is largely determined by the corporate that finances the presidential campaigns. For instance, a study made by Christopher Witko concludes “even after controlling for past contracts and other factors, companies that contributed more money to federal candidates subsequently received more contracts” (Witko 2011). Another study after analysis of financing and senate seat states “evidence that corporations and business PACs use donations to acquire immediate access and favor—suggesting they at least anticipate that the donations will influence policy” (Powell and Grimmer, 2016). That’s why although studies have repeatedly shown that climate change will have a devastating impact on people’s social and economic life, most governments have taken minimum steps towards reducing their greenhouse emissions, as seen by the climate action tracker.


Lastly, another main point from the movie is that the impact will mostly burden those with low income. The OECD has reported that the poor are more vulnerable, which doesn’t really need explaining, as seen in recent drought and heatwaves. The movie touches on many other points like the astronomers being charged just like we’ve seen with whistleblowers (e.g. Julian Assange) or nepotism in governments that prides themselves in being meritocratic. Yet the media takes the movie as an obvious plot and misses every main point. Was this intentional, or are they this oblivious is up to you, the reader, to decide.