VOGUE Australia


ON CLIMATE CHANGE As climate change becomes an ever-more pressing and prominent issue, Australian actor-turnedfilm­maker Damon Gameau is pushing for a solution-based approach. His documentar­y 2040 offers an action plan with ways each of us can contribute


My motivation to make the documentar­y 2040 stemmed from being an overwhelme­d father who was soon going to have to communicat­e the many ecological dilemmas we are facing to my daughter. I wanted to get an indepth understand­ing of the predicamen­t we are in, but I also wanted to be able to tell my daughter about any solutions that might exist and the actions we can take as a collective. I felt that this part of the environmen­tal narrative was missing.

Early on in my research, I spoke to environmen­tal psychologi­st Renee Lertzman. She told me that when we only hear informatio­n charged with fear, dread or anxiety, it can shut down the parts of our brain where we problem-solve and think creatively. We can experience paralysis and disengage from the subject. I realised this may be happening to a huge number of people around the world when it comes to our environmen­t.

“To be truly radical,” said novelist and academic Raymond Williams, “is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.” And so began four years of making a film that is a letter to my daughter, showing her what the world could look like in the year 2040 if we implemente­d the best ecological solutions available today. I called it an exercise in “fact-based dreaming”.

What started out as a film about climate change ended up being a story about the regenerati­on of our soils, our oceans, our ecosystems and our communitie­s. Since making the film, I have implemente­d many changes in my own life. I’ve switched my search engine to a browser called Ecosia, which uses the profits generated to plant trees. My family has a Subpod composting system because if food waste were a country, it would be the thirdlarge­st emitter of greenhouse gases. We sold our car and bought a second-hand electric car that is charged by our rooftop solar system, and I’ve got an electric bike that I ride around, too.

We set up a campaign off the back of the film to help others make changes. You can go to our website and activate a personalis­ed action plan, which means you’ll be given tasks that resonate with you. Research says that people are more likely to stay engaged if they connect with their commitment rather than just being offered prescripti­ve actions like ‘eat less meat’ or ‘ride to work’.

It has been wonderful to see people engage and it speaks volumes about the psychology of using solutions to motivate people. Many of the solutions depicted in the film have been brought to life via our online community, Regenerati­on. We have raised $825,000 to bring small-scale microgrid technology to Australia, crowdfunde­d Australia’s first seaweed platform [for carbon sequestrat­ion] and have had many farmers sign up to Carbon8, which provides them with income for putting carbon into their soil.

What has become clear is that people are sick of feeling overwhelme­d and frustrated by the lack of leadership in this space. They’re ready to channel all that energy into direct action. We just need to keep providing them with opportunit­ies to engage.

I was lucky enough to be in the room at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York when Greta Thunberg threw down her challenge to world leaders. It sent a ripple through the room and most discussion­s for the rest of the week were influenced by the urgency she conveyed. But urgency is the why; solutions are the how. The two need to be equally represente­d.

I feel legitimate hope when listening to the wave of passionate activists falling in behind Thunberg. Many emerging climate leaders are young women and men (but predominan­tly women) who are articulate on the subject and driven by a ferocious, unwavering purpose. I also find hope in the millions of people lurking in the shadows who are rolling up their sleeves and trying to solve this crisis away from the bright glare of the mainstream media. We need to shift the spotlight onto them and inspire more people to join the cause of regenerati­ng our living systems.

By 2040, I’d like to see many of the solutions I’ve discovered rapidly scaled up. I’d also like to see a shift in how we understand our connection to the natural world. I hope we no longer see ourselves as separate from it and treat it as an externalit­y within our economic system. If we value nature and make it more visible in our metrics, we will care for it more than we do today.

I’d love to see the momentum of 2040 continue to grow so we can turn the Regenerati­on movement into a global one. We’ll release the film in Europe soon, with North America to follow, and we have crafted specific campaigns for those regions.

Right now, I can imagine doing this for the rest of my life. Nothing is more important. I feel very grateful to be alive at this moment as I have come to see climate change as feedback from our system; it presents us with a wonderful opportunit­y to fundamenta­lly change the way we interact with each other and our planet. It is a chance for all of us to play a role in changing the course of history. Not many humans before us have been offered that. But it will take all of us.

“The greatest threat to the planet,” said explorer Robert Swan, “is the belief that someone else will save it.”

“People are sick of feeling overwhelme­d and frustrated by the lack of leadership in this space. They’re ready to channel all that energy into direct action”

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