Review: How to make real change: '2040' battles climate crisis with hope and facts

Kevin Crust
Decentralized energy access specialist Neelam Tahame, left, and filmmaker Damon Gameau discuss the use of solar microgrids in the documentary "2040."  (Together Films)

It turns out that the opposite of dystopia is not utopia, but rather a goofily charming Australian actor armed with a camera and a mission.

With his environmental documentary “2040,” writer-director Damon Gameau set out to create a letter from the future, a self-described “exercise in fact-based dreaming,” for his 4-year-old daughter Velvet. His goal: present Velvet and her generation a positive path for battling climate change utilizing only solutions that are presently available.

Gameau initiated this vision of the future by asking 100 children from around the world what they would like 2040 to look like. He was startled by how aware the kids (ages 6-11) are of the challenges the world is facing and weaves their voices into the film as an unjaded chorus of boundless potential (“Clean water!” “End deforestation!” “Rocket boots!” “National hot dog day!”).

Turning to experts in various fields, Gameau learns about solar-powered microgrids, localized economies, electric self-driving cars, urban food farms, regenerative agriculture, marine permaculture, resource awareness and increased educational opportunities for girls (perhaps the most surprising element presented). Every solution is then dramatized as to how it might affect the world of a 20-something Velvet.

The effect is inspiring and empowering. Fanciful animation, graphics and special effects, abetted by Gameau’s down under whimsy, make the film as entertaining as it is educational. Powered by unbridled optimism, Gameau defies skeptics by doing his homework and bringing receipts.

Working on the film in 2019, Gameau had no idea what 2020 would look like. Strangely or not, the massive uncertainty of the present only reenforces the pragmatic arguments of “2040.” The status quo is unsustainable, and Gameau illustrates that transformative change is not only necessary, but possible.