10 pop culture staples that'll make you want to save the Earth
Entertainment to save the planet
Earth Day comes every April 22, but being kind to the environment is a good look throughout the year. In honor of the annual reminder to love our planet, we've rounded up 10 different pieces of pop culture that advocate sustainability and otherwise celebrate the environmental cause. So check them out, hug a tree, and get inspired to save the Earth!
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) and An Inconvenient Sequel (2017)
Al Gore’s career has had a truly unique trajectory: He went from a successful politician to a failed presidential candidate to an environmental activist to a bona fide Hollywood hero, the latter of which he became with the 2006 release of the blockbuster documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Gore wrote and starred in the powerful film, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2006, and significantly raised awareness of global warming and reinvigorated the environmental movement. Eleven years later, Gore returned with the follow-up An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, as a not-so-gentle reminder that we are still destroying the planet, and that is the truth — however inconvenient it may be.
Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
Few animated villains are quite so terrifying as the evil pollutant spirit Hexxus, who threatens the beautiful, fairy-inhabited rainforest of Ferngully. When fairy Crysta accidentally shrinks human lumberjack Zak down to her size, they become fast friends, but as his employers begin to cut down the rainforest, their interference with the natural environment enables Hexxus to break free of the fairy magic that had restrained him and regain his destructive power. Robin Williams and Christian Slater both have voice roles in the environmental fantasy, and Tim Curry plays the monstrous Hexxus.
Planet Earth (2006)
Each episode of the BBC’s acclaimed nature docu-series Planet Earth examines a different one of Earth’s biomes or habitats. It took five years to produce and was, at the time of its production, the most expensive nature documentary series ever made. The heavily researched series, in addition to being enormously informative about the Earth and the species that live on it, is also so breathtakingly beautiful that only the most hardened viewer wouldn’t be moved to save the planet it depicts.
The Lorax (1971)
The Lorax's title character, one of Dr. Seuss’ most beloved made-up creatures, is a true hero for our time. A spokes-animal for the trees, he tries to convince the greedy Once-ler to stop cutting down trees to make products for a profit (the manufacture of which also pollutes the air and forces animals to leave their habitats). The Once-ler doesn’t listen, but comes to understand, years later, what the Lorax was trying to teach him: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Leo’s Oscar win
After years of indignation on the part of moviegoers everywhere, the Academy finally gave Leonardo DiCaprio a long-overdue Oscar in 2016. Accepting the Best Actor statuette for his performance as Hugh Glass in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant, DiCaprio told the audience in the Dolby Theatre — not to mention the much larger one watching from living rooms around the world — that the film “was about man’s relationship to the natural world,” from which he elegantly segued into an environmentalist rallying cry: “Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he said. “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much.”
The 11th Hour (2007)
DiCaprio has been vocal in his support of environmental causes for years, and in 2007, he produced, co-wrote, and narrated the documentary The 11th Hour, which includes interviews with dozens of world leaders, scientists, and climate change activists. The film details the disastrous state in which we have left the environment, and proposes various approaches to restoring our planet’s resources.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990)
It’s almost hard to believe now that there was once a blue-skinned, green-haired superhero with a theme song that cheered, “He’s our hero! Gonna take pollution down to zero!” — and all without the slightest hint of irony. Gosh, weren’t the ‘90s the best? Of course, this being 2020, there have been multiple attempts to revive the Captain and his crew of Planeteers — each of whom has the ability to harness the power of earth, wind, fire, water, or that elusive element of heart, respectively — for a new audience. The most recent of these reported plans for a big-screen adaptation is slated to be produced by, naturally, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The highest-grossing (worldwide) movie of all time — and the first installment in what is set to be a very long franchise — also happens to send a powerful environmentalist message. James Cameron’s CGI opus takes place in the far future, when humans have used up Earth’s resources and look to other planets to solve their energy crisis. As he aids in the exploration of the planet Pandora in search of the valuable mineral unobtanium, a former marine (Sam Worthington) falls in love with one of the natives (Zoe Saldana), and comes to understand that in mining unobtanium to save his own planet, he would be contributing to the destruction of another.
WALL-E, one of Pixar’s boldest animated visions, both condemns the excesses of modern civilization and expresses hope that someday we can correct them. Like Avatar, the film looks to the future and sees an Earth that has been made inhabitable by humanity’s exploitation of it. The protagonist is WALL-E, the last functioning trash-collecting robot on the planet, who has overcome his programming to develop a personality and even fall in love with EVE, a beautiful probe robot who scans the Earth for signs of life. When WALL-E finds a tiny living plant, he unwittingly changes the course of the human race.
“Hot in Herre” (2002)
When Nelly advised a club full of overheated partiers to disrobe, if by “all your clothes,” he meant “polar ice caps,” then he truly had a prescient understanding of the climate crisis in which Mother Earth now finds herself. While it’s perfectly legitimate to think of this 2002 jam as just another hip-hop song that was popular when you were in middle school, in more recent years it has also been adopted as a climate change anthem. Really!