I just finished binging Down to Earth with Zac Efron on Netflix and let me be the first to say – it had me feeling things. Aside from reviving an incurable crush on Troy Bolton I thought was buried in the late 2000s High School Musical era, the show gave me a strong sense of hope and perspective.
The series follows Zac and health guru Darin Olien as they embark on global adventures promoting cleaner living, rethinking everything from how we consume food and energy to our waste habits and the importance of pollinators.
The premise of the show is simple enough and though they present a few pseudoscientific ideas from supposed experts, unlike other celebrity shows, Down to Earth isn’t trying to sell us anything except the idea that our planet is worth looking after. And as the credits rolled, inspired by the man that Troy Bolton grew up to be, I began to evaluate some of my own choices and how they impact the planet.
I put it to my co-workers to find out which movies or series inspired them to change their habits and take action for the future of our planet. From fashion to food, these are the five films that changed our worldview.
Anything narrated by Sir David Attenborough is sure to catch our attention, and the nature documentary series Our Planet is no exception. Taking viewers to just about every corner of the globe without leaving the comfort of their couch, Our Planet is an acute reminder of how the climate crisis is impacting all living creatures. Although confronting in its depiction of human-caused destruction over the past 50 years, in the second half of the series, Attenborough switches to his familiar warm candour, offering exciting and sound solutions to the myriad of problems presented. The call to action via a link at the end of every episode for viewers to donate to conservation efforts is a nice touch – but wouldn’t it be even nicer if Netflix matched donations too?
Named one of the 10 most influential films of the decade in 2019 by the New York Times, Okja is a brilliant movie about a young girl who risks everything to prevent a multinational company from kidnapping her best friend: a massive “super pig” destined for the food trade. Critically acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho uses cinematic narrative, emotive storytelling and dark humour to draw a connection between “selective ignorance” and greed – and underlines the complexities of mass-produced meat. Turns out the film’s subtle subtext is powerful, inspiring one of our team members to give up eating meat entirely.
THE TRUE COST (2015)
This groundbreaking documentary pulls back the curtain on fast fashion, taking us to unseen parts of the world to show the shocking effects the garment industry has on the environment and human lives. Earning accolades for inspiring thousands of viewers around the globe to interrogate their relationship with clothing, the documentary also heroes forward-thinking fashion icons like Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, individuals who are actively using their brands and reputations to challenge the fashion industry and drive widespread change. For us, The True Cost is a wake-up call. It leaves us questioning our voracious desire to chase trends and have “more”, and consider who really pays the price for our clothing.
From the team behind the award-winning (and celebrity-endorsed) 2014 film Cowspiracy, Netflix’s 2020 documentary Seaspiracy dives deep into the fishing industry, exploring the damning effects of human activity on marine life. It gained particular international attention for its questioning of “sustainable” fishing practices (though this caused some backlash and claims of misrepresentation) and exposed many known detriments of the fishing industry, including bycatch, overfishing and the destruction of marine ecosystems. For those of us who have supplemented a meat-heavy diet with seafood, it is a timely reminder that it’s important to know exactly where our food comes from and the impact it has on ecosystems and the environment.
BEFORE THE FLOOD (2016)
Leonardo DiCaprio, need we say more? Presented by National Geographic, Before the Flood features the Academy Award-winning actor in his most influential role yet: a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In the film, DiCaprio travels to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand, meeting with scientists, politicians, visionaries and thought leaders fighting against inaction. While DiCaprio isn’t the first celebrity to come out fighting for the environment, his A-list status wields a tremendous amount of influence, and we are frankly glad to see him use his star power to deliver a passionate and hopeful plea for the planet.