Recent wildfires in Canada that have caused the worst air pollution in decades across the Northeast U.S. this week have made me think about how our lives are becoming more and more impacted by the effects of climate change. Growing wildfires, powerful hurricanes, sea level rise, melting glaciers, species extinction, and more acidic oceans are all causes for concern for people around the world and no country or people is likely to be exempt from at least one of the effects that have already been documented. What happens though in the next 50 years when we don’t take enough action now and in the past to reverse a possible future of no return?
That question is the premise for the first mainstream drama to focus on a future where climate change wins the battle that we are currently on track to lose if we don’t make drastic changes to our impact on the world around us. ‘Extrapolations’ is not a run of the mill documentary about climate change nor is it a disaster film that has become popular in Hollywood regarding disastrous storms. Instead, it is a rather intelligent take on the world soon when humanity cannot prevent global temperatures from staying at or below a 1.5-degree Celsius increase. The show covers what happens when humanity fails in its objective to keep the warming of the planet to a tolerable level. What starts out as 1.5 degrees Celsius becomes 2 degrees than 3 degrees until we become way past the point of no return past mid-century when 3.5 – 4 degrees Celsius is where the planet is headed.
Throughout the show’s eight episodes, we see the effects on the planet from Miami, Florida to New York City to London to Tel Aviv, Israel to Mumbai, India. From sea level rise wiping out the most popular nightlife areas in Miami including a historic synagogue to the constant wildfires that engulf Israel and the Middle East to limited outdoor time in Mumbai each day due to the overbearing heat and polluted air that causes deleterious effects to one’s health, the writers paint a grim yet realistic picture on what will happen if our climate change efforts fail miserably. More so than just the settings that are portrayed accurately in terms of how these popular cities may face their own negatives based on their geographic location, the characters in ‘Extrapolations’ have fully developed backgrounds, and you really get to know each of them over the course of the TV series.
There is a wide berth of society who are represented in this show from the wealthy billionaire who is interested in maximizing profits and takes advantage in his corporation from a dying planet to the Rabbi who is trying to wrestle with his faith in God as his synagogue slowly floods from the rising sea. What ‘Extrapolations’ does well is that it acknowledges that no one is purely innocent or purely guilty because of how badly climate change has warped the planet. Everyone is responsible in their own way, some more than others, but humanity is to blame for how we did not act quickly or unite fast enough to overcome our differences to reverse the worst effects to come.
The human effects of climate change are also explored such as how we are affected when we cannot go outside or must stay indoors to avoid heart or lung issues, why the extreme heat can prevent any work or leisure to take place, and how loneliness, depression, and atomization becomes more common when we despair at the worsening state of the planet.
My favorite episode in the eight-part TV series is ‘2066: Lola’ where we see how much augmented and virtual reality has come by then so that people are paid essentially to pretend to other people as a gig job and earn credits or money that can help improve their lives and insulate themselves more from climate change’s effects. The desire to connect with other people to distract ourselves from a dying planet is truly the TV series’ most impactful episode and makes you think about how much the emergence of augmented reality will make us both lonelier than ever and wanting to connect with others in untraditional and sometimes unseemly ways.
‘Extrapolations’ as a show really gets the A-list attention for a futuristic take on climate change’s effects on humanity with movie stars like Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker, Kit Harrington, Edward Norton, Matthew Rhys, Gemma Chan, David Schwimmer, etc. All eight episodes are boosted by a stellar cast who really pour their hearts into the performances they give. I believe that they all truly cared about the project and how important it is to have a show like this become the center of attention. While Apple has been rightly condemned for some corporate practices that are harmful to the planet, it is a major TV show and movie distributor and should be commended for being the first major studio to have a series that doesn’t shy away from the brutal honesty of where we are headed if we don’t mitigate the worst effects of climate change to come.
If you are reading this article in 2023, you already know that the sea levels are starting to rise, wildfires are growing in both size and scale, bigger and stronger hurricanes that are also becoming more powerful, and deadly heat waves are becoming more common. While the first episode in this series takes place in 2037 and the last one ends in 2070, climate change is already here in 2023 as recent news events make clear and it has been affecting us for quite some time.
I encourage ‘Extrapolations’ to be watched by viewers with an open mind but also a commitment to do better for the planet. Do not shy away to act and make your voice heard regarding climate change after watching the series. You may think you know how bad it can get in the future from watching this series but ‘Extrapolations’ importance as a show is that it is as clear as day to where we will end up if we don’t hit the collective climate target goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius or keep as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.
While the show does mention possible stopgaps and solutions that can mitigate the damage, by that time in the 21st century, these solutions are risky with side effects on the planet that can only be speculated about. While the billionaire tycoon character was likely modeled after a few people who are prominent in our current age, as the show makes clear, the blame does not fall on him alone. We all can do our part by taking action to reduce our own carbon emissions, to encourage others to petition for policies and solutions now instead of 10 to 50 years down the line.
If the show has one central message after its eight impactful episodes, we all have stake in making sure this planet is livable for future generations. Even if you won’t be around to see the worst of climate change, we all should do our part, advocate for solutions now, and to hold people in power and of great wealth accountable if they do not action as well on a larger scale. The clock is ticking and as ‘Extrapolations’ highlights from 2037 to 2070, it can go downhill and get worse than what are experiencing already in 2023. Let’s not make the show a reality but keep it as a cautionary tale of what would have happened if we did not act strongly enough in these first decades of the twenty-first century.
I recommend ‘Extrapolations’ based on its great acting, stunning visuals, excellent writing, and interesting plots, but most importantly, because it focuses on the biggest issue of our time and one that we cannot ignore or downplay anymore.