1. WALL-E

Director: Andrew Stanton

This is an incredible film. On the surface, it is a tale of friendship and true love between the most adorable robots. So, even if one does not detect the underlying message it is still a great movie. However, WALL-E also has a powerful message about sustainability. It shows the possibilities and consequences if society continues on its present course. It shows the outcome of what just a few generations of greedy and selfish people can do. By not caring at all for the world around them, and simply focusing on consumerism and consumption, the people destroy the Earth. This film takes full advantage of the power of exaggeration by showing images such as a landscape composed entirely of trash heaps. The result is a deeply inspiring message (and incentive!) to act more sustainably.

2. DAMNATION

Director: Ben Knight (I am only slightly biased as he is from my hometown of Telluride, Colorado)

This documentary focuses particularly on the issue of Dams. It delves into the issues of building dams and their negative consequences. However, I think this film is more than just an effort at awareness. By showing dam removal, it becomes a film showing that our society does in fact have a capacity for change. Sometimes the problems we face seem insurmountable, but this film boils those problems down into smaller battles and important events that will win the war to clean up our planet. Making change attainable is a really important message and so DAMNATION takes a spot on this list.

3. Avatar

Director: James Cameron

Flashy and known for its wonderful special effects, this film rarely gets the credit it deserves for having a powerful message about sustainability. It is a commentary on our society’s propensity for seeking economic gain at any cost. In this film, humans discover a planet rich in natural resources, but to get it they must destroy both the environment and the local people. This battle between sustainability and economic progress is an ongoing theme in our society right now. This film makes this list because it allows people to have this conversation about how to sustainably act in the interest of economic progress which otherwise would be taboo. It is critical to have this discussion so that we do not find ourselves destroying the incredible planet we live on.

4. An Inconvenient Truth

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Hear me out. Though much of the science of this film has been proven to be flawed and most people now bristle at the term ‘global warming,’ this film is still one of the most important sustainability films of our time. This film sparked the conversation on climate change by bringing it to the attention of the public. Without this film, climate change very easily could have continued to be a topic that was hushed up and only talked about between scientists and policy makers. An Inconvenient Truth brought this issue to the public and has inspired action on many fronts. Despite its flaws, the dialogue that this film initiated has been hugely important to the modern movement of sustainability and fighting climate change.

5. Any film that makes people fall in love with the world around them

  • The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (Director: Ken Burns)
  • Valley Uprising (Directors: Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen)
  • Chasing Ice (Director: Jeff Orlowski)
  • Planet Earth (Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just some of the films that have inspired me to love the world around me. The biggest obstacle we face in encouraging sustainability is that it is difficult for people to change their habits in order to preserve something in which they aren’t invested. Either people have no attachment to the natural world or don’t realize the incredible miracle that is our planet. These films can help to change that. They can show people that our world is worth saving for a long time. They can encourage people to act selflessly in order to better the whole. And though they can’t fix the problems, they can start a conversation and most importantly they can educate people. Education and knowledge are the greatest tools in the effort to make our society more sustainable. As eco Reps this is our mission, and though we only act at one school, we can make a difference.

And though they can’t fix the problems, they can start a conversation and most importantly they can educate people. Education and knowledge are the greatest tools in the effort to make our society more sustainable.