Research, Arts & culture, Science & environment, Film

Dire climate forecast inspires upbeat film about solutions for a warmer 'Tomorrow'

By Robert Sanders


In 2012, UC Berkeley paleontologist Anthony Barnosky and 20 co-authors published a dire paper warning that Earth’s climate is approaching a tipping point that could irrevocably drive the planet into a scary and uncertain future.

That paper had such a strong impact on French actress and director Mélanie Laurent, who was then pregnant, that she teamed up with filmmaker Cyril Dion to look for a positive way to tell this story. Their movie, “Demain” – French for tomorrow – premiered Dec. 1 in Paris during the COP21 climate summit, which itself could be a turning point in national commitments to cutting greenhouse gases and halting changes to Earth’s ecosystem short of a tipping point.

“Showing solutions, telling a feel-good story … this may be the best way to solve the ecological, economical and social crises that our countries are going through,” Laurent and Dion wrote on the film’s website .

Barnosky, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, and co-author and wife Liz Hadly, a professor at Stanford University, are participating in COP21 events in Paris and attended the premiere, ending up on stage with the cast and crew.

“It got a five-minute standing ovation, and is very inspiring,” Barnosky wrote in an email. “We’re definitely excited about it. It’s very gratifying to see the science inspire something like this.”

The movie actually begins with a voice-over from a news clip about the paper and Barnosky and Hadly talking about it.

Barnosky and Hadly

Anthony Barnosky and Elizabeth Hadly in a still from the film ‘Demain.’ Courtesy of Mars Films.

The film opens in major European theaters Dec. 2, with special showings at COP21 and UNESCO later this week. A spring opening is planned for the U.S.

Dion and Laurent, who has appeared in more than 40 feature films, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” and stars in “By the Sea” with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, teamed up with four others to investigate how 10 different countries are assessing the expected impacts of climate change and figuring out how to avoid them. They crowd-funded half a million dollars for the project and spent two years searching out human solutions, meeting “the pioneers who are re-inventing agriculture, energy, economy, democracy and education,” they wrote.

Dion and Laurent later shot a short video to highlight the connection between a book Barnosky and Hadly wrote, “End Game,” the 2012 paper in the journal Nature and the movie. Their book is only out in the U.K., but will be published in April in the U.S. with the title, “Tipping Point for Planet Earth, How Close Are We To the Edge?”

Laurent and Dion were not the only ones moved to action by the 2012 paper. California Gov. Jerry Brown asked Hadly and Barnosky to compile a global scientific consensus statement with broad-brush solutions for challenges including climate change, loss of eco-diversity, extinctions, pollution, population growth and overconsumption of resources. Brown has since distributed the statement, which is signed by more than 1,400 scientists from 60 countries, to national and international leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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