What's Your 2040? A Review of Damon Gameau’s New Documentary
Updated: May 15
Last Sunday, Dan and I decided to go and see '2040', an Australian documentary by actor and director, Damon Gameau. We had seen it advertised on Facebook, and honestly weren't sure what to expect except a reminder of the damage humans have and still cause to the planet. Instead, however, we were surprised with a positive, refreshed outlook on what the future could hold.
The structure of the documentary is simple; Damon imagines what 2040 could look like for his now 4-year-old daughter if we change our ways, using only technology that already exists. To do this, he travels around the world looking at what different communities are doing to utilise current tools and technology to sustain themselves and the planet, chatting to plenty of scientists, innovators, experts, and children along the way.
His journey focuses on a number of key areas, including female empowerment and education, agriculture, renewable energy, and alternative transportation to name a few. One of the most fascinating ideas he puts forward for me is the possibility of having a circular economy. Gameau visits a Bangladesh village where the residents have set up a solar-powered grid system that gives all the residents electricity. Each household has a box, and each box is connected to a neighbouring box, and they can buy and sell electricity between themselves as and when they need to. This means they have complete control over what they used, they don't have to pay big corporations, and they can freely connect with neighbours in the same village and neighbouring villages too. Gameau goes on to explain how we could implement this in Western society, using flash-forwards to 2040 to show this. Not only would we be using renewable energy which is obviously much better for the environment, but we would also be getting rid of the need for big companies to exploit both us and the planet. Interestingly, this decentralised power system has been made illegal in some countries, which, although it was only a passing comment in the documentary, is definitely worth thinking about.
The other thing I found fascinating was his idea for changing the way we see transport. He travels to America to demonstrate this, explaining that cars are one of the highest contributors to emissions. Gameau explains how electric vehicles, community transport, and ride sharing could decrease this greatly using visual effects and animation to showcase his ideal. Although it looks and sounds perfect, Gameau makes it clear that he thinks this would be harder to implement than it sounds. However, understanding the industries that could bring about this change is one step closer to actually making it happen, and he discusses the possible outcomes with Professor Genevieve Bell, who notes, rather interestingly, that vehicles aren’t so much objects to get around anymore, but more a tool to show off social status and money. This, she explains, has only come about because of clever advertising. I currently can’t drive, however my partner can, and it is true that we have a bigger sense of freedom since owning a car, although we don’t see our little Skoda Fabia with its broken heaters and manual locking as particularly luxurious! Nevertheless, the idea of driver-less electric cars and futuristic buses does spark excitement in me. I can understand why people would be less inclined to give up their vehicles, but this change can only happen if they do. It’s interesting to wonder whether enough people would, or whether capitalism may come out on top on this occasion.
Another interesting and unusual outlook was the way agriculture was discussed. Instead of shaming all farmers for exploiting animals and land, like many other documentaries have done, Gameau looks at alternative ways of utilising land, growing crops, and caring for livestock that would have much more positive effects on the planet. Of course, we all know that veganism is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint, however Gameau takes a much more realistic approach, and discusses what changes we can make to turn agriculture into a planet-friendly industry. I’d love to delve into this further however I’m certainly not an expert, and through fear of relaying the wrong information I’ll leave it to you to watch the documentary and see for yourself how he considers this happening.
Throughout the documentary, Gameau remains upbeat but realistic about our future on planet Earth. Through the use of exciting visuals and refreshing discussions, we truly do get to see a glimpse into a bright and healthy 2040. This optimism is only emphasised through the children he interviews as they explain what they want to see in twenty years from now, from rocket powered boots to the ability to eat hot dogs every single day. However, there’s no hiding the fact that it will be difficult and Gameau reiterates numerous times that we need to work together to make these changes happen.
Overall, it is accessible, inviting, and imaginative in its portrayal of what 2040 could look like, and definitely one to watch if you want to educate yourself further on what we can do to help without being disheartened or depressed by the current state of our planet.
You can find out where you can watch the documentary and join ‘the Regeneration’ here: https://whatsyour2040.com/