My wife and I took our almost-ten year old grandson Max to see WALL*E yesterday (his second time, our first - so maybe he took us?). What a good movie! We had a great conversation afterward about the movie, and Max was particularly interested in discussing the concept of people ruining the Earth with too much garbage and pollution. In my discussions with all four of our grandchildren, I've learned that kids these days are very much tuned into environmental problems, and think about ways to solve them. I don't sense fear in these young minds, the kind that my generation was taught regarding the imminent A-bomb sent by the Soviet Union. Instead there is thoughtfulness and a willingness to be part of "fixing it."
I think the film WALL*E is more than a cautionary environmental tale combined with a robot love story (is it OK to have a few tears about robots holding hands?). The root of the global environmental disaster in the film is consumerism on steroids, a superstore (Buy n Large, or B n L) gone wild that became everything - store, government, media, etc. The garbage produced by overachieving consumerism becomes unmanageable, and people leave WALL*E and his robot cleanup comrades behind to clean up the mess while humans cruise the universe on luxury B n L space liners.
The premise seems kind of silly, or does it? This post is not a Walmart bash, but Walmart is the obvious model that the film might have had in mind (I certainly walked away from the film thinking WALL*E - Wal*Mart). I've written previously (see November 25, 2006) about the U.S. consumer demand for home electronics resulting in more factories being built in China fueled by more coal-fired power plants producing a huge plume of air pollutants that drifts across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the U.S. As consumers, we are trained to buy whatever gadgets and gizmos we see, and throw them away when they break or become obsolete (often within a year or two). If you've ever visited a landfill, you can picture the mountains of trash that we ship out of our cities. From cradle to grave, most consumer products leave behind a trail of environmental harm, including a changing climate, polluted air and water, and mountains of trash.
Will we ever have cute little WALL*E robots cleaning up our messes? Will we get to the point where leaving the planet is the best option? Will robots save humanity by re-creating life on Earth? Likely not. I'm unhappy about the mess my generation is leaving our grandkids, but their understanding and excitement to change the world gives me hope.
Thanks Pixar for a wonderful film that is so much more than entertainment.