The cautionary “cli-fi” of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
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The cautionary “cli-fi” of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

As a long-time lover of dystopian science fiction, I am looking forward to seeing the continuation of the Australian classic Mad Max series, which began in 1979. I actually haven’t seen any of the original three installments since the ’80s, but I’m looking forward to going in fresh, without resorting to tedious comparisons between old and new.

A new environment for sci-fi?

While the original Mad Max, starring now-tarnished Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson, took place in an Australia ravaged by energy crisis and lawlessness, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road deals with a not-too-distant future dealing with the effects of climate change. The film stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, who recently, at the film’s gala premier in Cannes, drew the connections between our current inaction on climate change and the horrific future of Fury Road:

It felt very grounded in real events. The idea of globalization and global warming and drought and the value of water, and leadership becoming completely out of hand.

. . . there are images on Google right now of Sahara desert sand being blown, in that state, all through Africa. And that’s frightening. The hair lifted up on the back of my neck. What makes [the film] even scarier is that it is something that is not far off if we don’t pull it together.

(via the Guardian)

Is Australia on track to make Mad Max a reality?

One should not ignore the fact that Mad Max is set in Australia, which may not be in the throes of an energy crisis as the original films envisioned, but is pursuing policies that significantly contribute to climate change. Case in point: Down Under is embracing coal, a particularly dirty form of energy and source of greenhouse gases, more than ever — Aboriginal lands, the Great Barrier Reef and the global climate be damned.


Environmental protest on May Day. Pic: Johan Fantenberg (Flickr CC)

And then you’ve got a government, led by Liberal PM Tony Abbott, which is championing a proposal for a $4m Australia Consensus Centre run by Bjørn Lomborg. A statistician and “skeptical environmentalist”, Lomborg, who while not an outright climate denier like the coal barons who hold great sway over the government, believes the perceived threat of climate change to be exaggerated.

The proposed Consensus Centre would be located at the Australian National University at Canberra, but university students around the country have protested its existence and academics have questioned the appointment of Lomborg to head a center on climate science.

This is quite typical of how the government has handled the environment in general and climate science in particular — don’t deny the science, but don’t take it so seriously; pretend to make a real effort to study and come up with solutions, but only so long as they don’t step on the toes of big business. They basically do what we used to call “let’s not and say we did” when we were kids. Let’s build a center to study climate change and have it run by someone who disagrees with what most climate scientists recommend we do limit it.

Maybe it should be run by Charlize Theron. Can we get a consensus on that?