In general I'll take any excuse to go see a kid's movie. Aside from the fact that I'm currently at the stage in my life where I find six year-olds to be annoying, content created for them often seems to be extremely entertaining. Proving, once again, that since I'm a grown-up now...it's my turn to decide what that means.
But, obviously, as chief geek here at EcoGeek I had to go see Wall*E; the story of a little solar-powered robot left behind to take care of the mess left on Earth. The result, aside from a wonderful and humorous love story in which the robots seem considerably more human than humans, contains some interesting ideas about the environment and technology.
In the movie, the Earth is abandoned in about 2110...about 100 years from now. In that time, we've made some good advances in renewable energy, and even efficiency, but it wasn't enough.
Wall*E himself is the most prominent example of clean technology. We've covered robots that may help to sort trash, or break it down into more manageable chunks. But obviously Wall*E's finest clean technology are his exceptionally (in fact, impossibly) efficient solar panels. Just like the Solio charger, Wall*E's panels expand and fold-out to become larger than the surface area of Wall*E himself.
However, the surface area of the panels, at most two feet square, won't ever provide enough electricity for Wall*E's roving and trash compacting (never mind his high-powered laser.) To actually renewably charge the army of self-sustaining robots (of which Wall*E is the last remaining survivor) a huge solar array would need to be maintained (by other robots) and Wall*E would have to visit it regularly for recharges.
Alternately, it's possible that an invisible and undiscussed satellite array is collecting huge amounts of energy in orbit around the earth. And when Wall*E needs a charge he calls down a super-powerful beam of photons or microwaves. That would allow him to charge for a full day's work in a matter of minutes.
Additionally, on the post-apocalyptic earth, advertisements are solar powered and holographic projections for the mega-corps who have taken over as our government are only turned on when they detect movement.
Aside from the disturbing idea that Wal-Mart may one day be our government, it's true that they're using similar technology to turn off display lights when there are no shoppers, saving tons of electricity. And they have what may turn out to be the largest privately owned collection of solar panels in the world.
In Wall*E's world we seem to have developed some great environmental technologies. Wind turbines abound...though they are covered up to their necks in the refuse of our civilization. This, for me, was the movie's most powerful statement. Is it possible that, no matter how much power we produce renewably, we will never satisfy the demand of the Earth's people. Will we simply consume our way back into the hole of unsustainability no matter what solutions are presented by technology?
Obviously I hope that's not the case. I do, however, think it's possible. While humans are very good at creating solutions, we're also very good at being stupid. The massive amounts of refuse on the planet don't seem to be the true problem. It's the pollution of the skies and ground that has destroyed plant and animal life that really seems to have forced humans off the planet.
And while there are several examples of robots that are looking to monitor pollution, and even some that might help us grow food or clean pollution, the massive scale of the potential problem is daunting.
Obviously, I'm taking all of this from a movie that is about robot love...not about the environment. But the fact that such a vision of the future is even culturally acceptable and doesn't seem at all ridiculous is a pretty big step. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step in the treatment of any disease. And, in the end, that may be Wall*E's biggest contribution to environmental technology.
written by Hank, June 29, 2008
written by Hank, June 30, 2008
written by Hank, June 30, 2008
written by Drew Long, June 30, 2008
written by Magnulus, June 30, 2008
written by Ian, June 30, 2008
written by Tuan, July 13, 2008
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