While Waterworld doesn’t even explicitly mention global warming, Merchant says it would have undoubtedly made viewers inquire about the crisis and “seek out more reliable sources to better understand” it. Dr Peter Gleick, a world-renowned expert on water and climate issues, echoes this sentiment, saying that as an example of climate-fiction, Waterworld is “even more relevant and on target today than it was when it came out”.
“These films offer us little glimpses into the future. However realistic they are or may not be, they do provide us with the opportunity to think that maybe we should doing things to stop these bad things from happening.” Rader’s work on Waterworld has even had repercussions beyond the big screen. In April 2019, he was invited to be a part of the very first round table on Sustainable Floating Cities at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, alongside a team of specialists. A model designed by architect Bjarke Ingels was created for the occasion and placed in the middle of the table. Rader couldn’t believe his eyes when it “looked exactly like our Atoll from Waterworld… It was immensely satisfying to be in a room where concepts I came up with three decades earlier could actually help us.”
There’s even more to Waterworld’s environmental impact, too. Costner was so inspired by his time on the film that he bought Ocean Therapy Solutions, a company that specialises in separating oil from water – a process which is used to mitigate oil spills – and that sold its technology to BP after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon industrial disaster. It’s now been predicted that the Arctic sea ice, which plays a vital part in controlling the worldwide climate, could disappear as early as 2035 – so the next time someone calls Waterworld a flop, tell them that one day, it might just help to save the planet.
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