As metaphors for the global climate crisis go, 2040 director Damon Gameau perched on the edge of a great big steaming pile of compost is pretty fitting.
In 2015, the Byron Bay-based filmmaker’s quest to reveal the bitter truth about our sweet addiction led to critically-hailed That Sugar Film and That Sugar Movement, a push to help people cut out hidden sugars.
Now he’s determined to shine the same light on climate change in 2040, his latest thought-provoking documentary which has already earned selection at Seattle, Stockholm and Berlin film festivals.
It’s all about highlighting existing people-driven solutions to an overwhelmingly scary scenario, positing a better future by the year 2040.
“The problem is so existential that it’s easier just to block out sometimes,” Gameau, 42, tells The New Daily. “You just get on with your life and be present, and that’s fine.”
For his part, the 2040 director and his wife, Zoe Gameau, a former Winners and Losers actress, decided they couldn’t ignore it because of their daughter Velvet, 5.
So they set about highlighting existing, people-driven solutions on film.
It’s the second time Velvet has inspired a Gameau documentary. It was Zoe’s pregnancy with her that made Gameau aware of healthy eating, which sparked That Sugar Film.
2040 – the year Velvet will be 21 – came about because he wants to tell her a better story about our future.
“I want to be able to counter [the bad news] by saying, ‘you know what, there are solutions.’ People are doing wonderful things.”
That’s why he jumped on a bunch of planes – yes, carbon offsets were bought – and travelled the world looking for answers.
Gameau’s quest took him to Bangladeshi villages linking small, solar-driven electricity micro grids house-to-house. He saw food waste collections in Stockholm producing methane to fuel buses and taxis. He learned about a US research site exploring the use of seaweed farms to produce food and reduce water temperatures.
Then there are the Australian farmers allowing animals to regenerate soil the natural way.
That’s why we’re smelling the fragrant whiff of a compost heap in the West Brunswick Community Garden and Food Forest on May 22.
Volunteers collect garden waste and mix it up with kitchen scraps contributed by locals.
Then sustainability outfit Reground delivers a heap of coffee grounds from cafes. That gets thrown into the compost mix with shredded waste paper, sawdust and water.
With a bit of raking, a bunch of busy micro-organisms and a lot of patience and about two to three months, the result is nitrogen- and carbon-rich compost, great for gardens.
Gameau says it’s a great idea that local councils can help coordinate. At home, he’s done a similar thing, chipping in with neighbors to buy a small tent-like system that produces compost and cooking gas with an attached stovetop they use for BBQs.
“It’s incredible,” he says. “We take it camping.”
Reducing food waste is even easier.
“If food waste was a country, it would be the third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the US,” he says.
“But if you finish your next meal instead of throwing out food scraps and clean out the fridge before you do your shopping, we can make a big difference.”
For Gameau, the key to creating change is not to hector. You have to bring folks with you, he says, selling sustainable jobs as a secure future and solutions that inspire.
“That’s why we set up whatsyour2040.com, so you go on and fill out the things that resonate with you, then it gives you ideas you can get passionate about and actually achieve.
“Not everyone can afford a Tesla.”
Talking to school kids the world over inspired him to keep pushing, but 2040 had a personal price: time away from Zoe and Velvet. “It’s tough,” Gameau says.
Running a small crew on 2040 took a physical toll too.
“I actually had a brain haemorrhage halfway through filming,” he says.
“I’m prone to pushing myself too much, but I just feel so bloody passionate about this topic. It’s a balance, though.
“If I’m not around in 2040, that’s not going to help anyone.”
2040 is now screening nationally. Kids 18 and under can see it free at Palace Cinemas on May 25 and 26 if accompanied by an adult who buys a ticket.