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The end of the world?

With the Copenhagen climate talks coming up next month and the Trafigura scandal all over the news, the environment is a hot topic once again. Doom-laden predictions about the global temperature are almost everywhere you look, and our unseasonably warm November seems only to have made matters worse.

We live in anxious times. And this month’s blockbuster from Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, feeds on that anxiety.

2012 is a classic disaster movie, which depicts, quite literally, the end of the world. Yellowstone Park is transformed into a gigantic volcano; the White House is obliterated by an aircraft carrier riding a 1500 foot tsunami; Los Angeles is shattered by an earthquake and sinks into the sea.

All this apocalyptic stuff set me thinking about how the environment – waste and recycling in particular – appears in films. Al Gore’s cinematic lecture tour, An Inconvenient Truth, features countless graphs of rising temperatures and CO2 levels, alongside endless maps, glacier comparisons and footage of photogenic (and endangered) species.

There is not, however, a great deal of emphasis on waste. Gore’s focus is more on fossil fuels and science than the change that we can start at our own front door.

Leonardo DiCaprio did rather better in his oeuvre, The 11th Hour. Shots of landfill, polluted rivers and scavengers on dumps bring home the importance of managing our waste, while his associated website campaigns (among other things) for better and smarter recycling.

The Day After Tomorrow, of course, dealt with climate change – and its associated special effects – rather than the causes of climate change. And, as you might expect from the director, giant waves and crumbling buildings feature rather more highly than landfill, recycling or composting.

Oddly, it is a children’s film which has the most to say about what waste – in every sense – can do to the planet. And, if you have a recycling or waste management business and would like to work with local schools to raise your profile, then WALL-E is a must-see.

Produced by Pixar, the folk who brought us Finding Nemo, WALL-E tells the story of a rubbish-collecting robot in a dystopian future. The human race has had to abandon earth, pushed out by the huge mounds of litter people have created. But when WALL-E finds a plant growing among the skyscrapers of rubbish he has cleared, society has a chance to begin all over again.

And, without spoiling this month’s blockbuster for you, I can say that WALL-E offers humanity a rather more positive new beginning than 2012.

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