[Editor’s Note: With the 2015 Paris Climate Conference underway, our very own Maria Ramos takes a look at the history of environmental disasters in horror and science fiction film!] For as long as we’ve been making movies, we’ve been projecting our fears onto the big screen. In the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, as mankind has become more aware of our effect on the environment at large, our fears of natural and environmental disasters that we have caused have likewise been reflected in cinema. Plagues have been a worry since earliest history, from the Plague of Athens in 430 BCE to the Black Plague that swept Europe in 1347. With the advent of genetic engineering the fear of man-made biological weapons is now out of the realm of science fiction and a real worry, and on film it is a common starting point for zombie outbreak scenarios. The zombie apocalypse of Danny Boyle’s 2002 horror film 28 Days Later begins when lab monkeys infected with an experimental virus bite and infect a human. Such interspecies transmission is not unheard of – avian and swine flu are both named for their primary animal hosts. 2007’s I Am Legend likewise deals with a genetically tweaked virus. Intended as a cure for cancer, the virus instead kills 90 percent of those it infects and mutates the remaining 10 percent into zombie-like creatures. Retroviruses intended as cures are a real, though still experimental technology. 2010’s The Crazies involves a virus being unleashed when the military plane carrying it crashes, unleashing it into an unsuspecting population. In 2013’s World War Z a virus acts as a preventative measure for the zombie outbreak, with survivors using easily treatable viruses to mask themselves against zombies. One of the first natural disasters that made it onto film was the poisoning of the environment through our own meddling. 1954 saw the release of both Godzilla and Them!, two films which show the dangers of atomic testing from two different points of view. Godzilla shows its Japanese influence, with clear references to the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and portraying its giant monster as a force of nature. Them! reflects American fears of the hubris of nuclear testing, as ants grown to monstrous size thanks to atomic fallout terrorize the United States while building a new nest. As atomic radiation was the fear of the cold war, toxic waste was the buzzword of the 1980s. 1984’s C.H.U.D. tells the story of cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers who prey on New York City’s homeless. A product of its time, the C.H.U.D.s were mutated by toxic waste dumped by the unscrupulous businessmen that were the ubiquitous enemies of the 1980s. As the ’80s rolled into the ’90s and awareness of climate change began to rise, our fears changed again. In 2006’s The Last Winter, researchers face ghosts raised by oil drilling. While the ghosts are questionable, the dangers posed by oil drilling and the burning of fossil fuels are not. According to Alberta Gas, the burning of fossil fuels increases by approximately 2.3 percent every two years – greatly contributing to climate change. In 2012’s found footage horror film The Bay, pollution was the culprit when a New England coastal town becomes ground zero for a horrific parasite brought about by water polluted by runoff from a chicken farm. In the United States, agricultural manure management contributes an estimated 12% of greenhouse gasses per year. With climate change awareness increasing, it’s no surprise that in recent years we’d see its blatant threats on screen. 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow features a time-compressed version of the dire prediction of climatologists. Superstorms and drastically changing temperatures are a fear – but they likely would not occur within a week. In 2014’s Into the Storm, climate change alters atmospheric temperatures enough that an unprecedented amount of F5 tornadoes hit a small town during their graduation. Hollywood takes the seeds of reality and grows them into entertainment, but in the process has the ability to teach. Audiences can learn about a concept in a film and hear about on the news later. Perhaps it can even strike a spark in the curious and produce an interest – even one that could turn into a lifelong calling. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Drive-In Saturday: Soylent Green (1973) - Psycho Drive-In January 23, 2016 […] nearly fifty percent and even the supply of soylent products can’t keep up with the demand. The message is clear; start finding ways to conserve our planet’s natural resources, stop producing more people than […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.