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“Don’t Look Up,” climate change, and the Marshall Fire

And what all of it has to do with Colorado’s future…

Please, for the love of God, look up. 

If you listened to Friday’s City Cast Denver episode, you heard me and the rest of the team chat about a little movie called “Don’t Look Up.” Since its debut in early December, the Netflix film with Colorado connections has won eight awards and earned another 38 nominations and sparked some serious internet debate. The movie was written and directed by Adam McKay — who’s known for his involvement in Hollywood blockbusters like “Vice,” “Anchorman,” and “The Big Short,” — with writing contributions from our own local journalist and past City Cast Denver guest David Sirota.

“Don’t Look Up,” in its essence, is a two-hour-and-18-minute satirical comedy that offers social commentary and a metaphorical on the fight (or lack thereof) against climate change. And I loved it.


Here’s the gist: In the movie, there’s a massive, apocalyptic-level comet on a collision course with earth. The human race has six months to course correct before global extinction. The astronomers behind the discovery (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) are sounding the alarms. Everyone else’s response, specifically the government and the media, is dim-witted denial, as they’re consumed more by the fear of bad press or the temptation of financial gain than planetary destruction. Even once the comet becomes visible in the sky and oblivion is on its way, the “comet-deniers” start peddling the benefits a planet-destroying comet could bring, leaving the American citizens manipulated, confused, and divided, and sealing a cataclysmic fate for the world. Sound familiar yet?

For the first 30-40 minutes of the movie, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to like it. (The off-beat comedy felt a little stiff and forced to me, but I think that’s just because satire is not usually my comedic brand of choice.) But once the big metaphor became clear (comet = climate change), the facetiousness of the dialogue was surprisingly entertaining. It’s with a dark, mortifying sense of humor that the film holds up a mirror to American society. And frankly, if you didn’t like the movie, maybe it’s because you didn’t like what you saw in the reflection.

The film’s dialogue is absolutely littered with lines that are painfully poignant, like this one from J-Law’s character, Kate Dibiasky: “I’m sorry. Are we not being clear? We’re trying to tell you that the entire planet is about to be destroyed.” Or Leo’s character, Dr. Randall Mindy, to a talk-show host: “Not everything needs to sound so goddamn clever or charming or likeable all the time. Sometimes we need to just be able to say things to one another. We need to hear things.” Or the madam president’s line (played by Meryl Streep) to the citizens of America: “They’re just trying to scare you.”

But that’s just the main metaphor. I found that “Don’t Look Up” offered insightful commentary on media consumption (Tik Tok, memes, your Facebook acquaintance who clearly knows better than any peer-reviewed science report), politics (notice how Meryl Streep’s character twists the comet to fit her current campaign ratings), and of course we can’t leave out the veeery thinly-veiled comparisons to Donald Trump (come on, campaign baseball hats?).The plot line surrounding the blatant disregard for peer-reviewed science felt eerily similar to what we’ve seen in the real world around COVID-19.

But overall, it’s pretty clear what the message here is, right? Here’s climate change, as big and glaring as a comet barreling straight toward earth, and we have the tools to do something about it. So why aren’t we? Will we wait until it’s too late and there’s nothing to do but buy a nice bottle of wine, surround ourselves with friends and family, and watch as the planet crumbles around us?

And right now, looking at the pile of ash that once was much of the towns of Louisville and Superior, Colorado, it couldn’t hit closer to home. More than 1,000 homes and businesses were burned down by the Marshall Fire just ahead of New Year’s Eve, right in my backyard, in a neighborhood I called home for six years. It was a devastating disaster ignited by the astoundingly dry conditions we’ve faced all summer long and high winds — *cough, cough* climate change.

“The situation is a blinking code red for our nation. The combination of extreme drought — the driest period from June to December ever recorded — unusually high winds, no snow on the ground to start, created a tinderbox. A literal tinderbox,” said President Joe Biden while touring the fire damage last week. And at the rate we’re going, that was just the beginning.

So please, for the love of God, look up.

— Peyton Garcia, City Cast Denver Newsletter Writer and Concerned Citizen of Planet Earth


Other Denver Odds and Ends

🏈 So long, Vic Fangio: After three consecutive losing seasons, the Denver Broncos head coach was given the boot. The team’s general manager, George Paton, is officially on the search for a replacement.

  • A whole new team: The Denver Broncos are also expected to get a new owner before the 2022 NFL season. (And that’s an entirely different can of worms.)

👋 City Council welcomes Bonita Roznos: Denver City Council appointed its new executive director — a position that’s been vacant for the last 16 months. Roznos comes to Denver from the Seattle Office of Hearing Examiner. 

  • What’s the City Council executive director do? Colorado Politics reports that Roznos will oversee legislative services staff, assist with council budgeting and personnel functions, and help negotiate contracts for police officers, firefighters, and sheriff deputies. 

🚑 EMS teams are re-evaluating their priorities: A surge in COVID-related staffing shortages has forced emergency medical services agencies to resort to “crisis standards of care,” meaning use of paramedics and ambulances will be reserved for “only the most severe cases.”

🦠State OKs a change in school COVID protocols: Following guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state health department is now recommending that students and teachers who test positive for COVID or come in close contact with COVID only need to quarantine for five days, as opposed to the previous recommendation of 10 days.

🎧 LISTEN: Why are King Soopers workers going on strike? Starting this Wednesday, 8,400 King Soopers employees are planning to launch a three-week strike. We wanted to know just how it all came to this and what’s next, so we spoke with Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union, for the full scoop.