The Oscars are coming! Let’s talk about “Don’t Look Up”

The Oscars are coming! Let’s talk about “Don’t Look Up”

By Berit Thorson

The Oscars are happening on Sunday, and there is one film in particular that climate advocates are talking about: “Don’t Look Up” is a star-studded film commentary on climate change. It was released in early December 2021 on Netflix and features Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and more. 

The film is set in current times, but instead of climate change being the major threat, there is a planet-killing comet barreling toward Earth, and many people try to hide or ignore it, saying “just don’t look up.” Scientists and activists try to convince everyone they need to look up and pay attention. The film uses satire and humor to portray the message that ignoring climate change is a grave mistake made by both political leaders and everyday people alike, but it’s not  too late to correct our course of action.

In January and again in March, CCL hosted a virtual discussion centered around “Don’t Look Up” and its multifaceted approach to broaching the climate conversation within a movie. Both events were facilitated by CCL’s Resilience Building Action Team leaders Steve Levin, Debbie Chang, and Jeff Joslin and engaged nearly 100 total attendees across multiple breakout rooms, discussing topics such as “Sparking Conversations,” “How to Communicate and Persuade,” “Identifying with the Characters” and “Transitioning from Film to Activism.”

As Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a scientist and environmentalist, and Adam McKay, the film’s director, discuss in this article, “when people laugh together it gives them perspective, relief and, most of all, a semblance of community.” They explain that despite increased extreme weather events attributed to the climate crisis, corporate media coverage of climate change in 2020 accounted for only 0.4% of airtime, a 53% decrease from 2019. This is where humor comes in. “Hopefully,” they say, “comedy can help elucidate how our culture of swipes, clicks and likes is taking us further and further away from the one subject we must talk about.” 

While “Don’t Look Up” may not provide the perfect analogy to challenges of the climate crisis, it still provides a fresh approach to climate conversations and encourages everyone to participate. One easy way to get involved in this work is to join CCL and lobby Congress, write to local newspapers, educate and empower your local community to take action, and more. We invite you to bring your whole self to this movement and utilize your specific skills and interests to support climate action. And if you watch “Don’t Look Up,” make sure to tag @citizensclimate on Instagram and Twitter with your take on the movie’s analogy and the ways that you “look up” in your own life.


Berit Thorson is the CCL Spring 2022 Communications Intern. As an outdoors enthusiast, she is passionate about protecting nature and people from the impacts of climate change, and is excited to be working with CCL toward these goals.