Greta Thunberg says there is a “big lack of storytelling when it comes to the climate crisis” and urged decision-makers in the film and television industries to support writers willing to tackle the issue. The Swedish climate change activist was joined by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Tuesday afternoon where the two spoke about issues surrounding the lack of attention the entertainment industry gives the worldwide crisis.
“I know so many – whether it’s artists, storytellers or journalists – who tell me they really want to write about [the climate crisis] and that they really want to make stories about this, report about this, make movies about it or make art about it but that they don’t really have that support in order to do that,” she said. “So I think yes, there is a big lack of storytelling when it comes to the climate crisis whether it’s fictional or whether it’s just reflecting the reality as it looks today.”
She said that many of the stories that have touched upon the ongoing climate situation have largely been focused on events that happen in the distant and dystopian future, citing the film The Day After Tomorrow as an example.
“We can’t just tell those stories because [the climate change] is not in the future and we don’t know how it is going to turn out,” Thunberg said before adding, “I have heard from many storytellers who are more or less afraid to write about the climate crisis but I think that we should simply tell the truth as it is.”
Nesbo, who is the writer behind projects such as Headhunters and The Snowman, agreed adding that the main problem with the subject matter is that storytelling on big events often occurs after the event has happened.
“If you look at, for example, the Vietnam War, the wave of movies about the trauma of that war didn’t come until the late 1970s long after the war or some years after the war but not during the Vietnam War itself,” he said.
He added: “So I think that this is like a crisis as it would be easy to tell a story if we could see what was behind this. If you look at material like this from an entertainment point of view, it’s not an easy sell.”
Nesbo pointed to 1993 Tom Hanks film Philidelphia as a good example of a film that bravely tacked an urgent current issue and won audience and critical interest, proving it is possible to write successful about present difficult issues.
“Philidelphia came in 1993 and dealt with the AIDS epidemic at the height of the epidemic,” he said. “Everybody thought that it was a difficult sell even with Tom Hanks…and it opened really slowly when it first came out and it was a good movie and slowly more and more people went and saw it and it became a huge commercial success.”
He added: “There is always interest for a good story, even if it deals with topics that we find painful and hard to watch.”