Co-creating solutions for a thriving planet: lessons from Apple TV’s Extrapolations

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Image credit: Apple TV’s Extrapolations

“In order to do what the climate crisis demands of us, we have to find stories of a livable future, stories of popular power, stories that motivate people to do what it takes to make the world we need.”

Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian 

My first apocalyptic imagination came from the film 2012. One fine day, I thought, the world would end – oceans churning waves as big as mountains, roads cracking apart and fires turning forests to ash. Just like that, without sign or warning. Now I realise the apocalypse in 2012 wasn’t at all about being blindsided by the natural world. It was a crisis of being unable to systematically see, sense and act on signs. 

We’re endlessly reading about climate action convenings, solar panels, carbon credits and what have you. Many pictures of what the future may look like, for better or for worse, are emerging. One of the best (worst-case) pictures of the future I have seen is in the AppleTV+ anthology series Extrapolations. It takes us in the midst of a world ravaged by climate crises from 2037 to 2070. Depicting a familiar but worse-off world – with ferocious hurricanes, intense heat waves, relentless drought, Extrapolations is a call to take action now, now, now as “the choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.” 

What’s interesting about Extrapolations is the way it draws from and showcases data. Every episode begins with statistics about the rise in temperature, displacement, species lost, and cost of the climate crisis – an exponential graph.

Cocreating solutions for a thriving planet: lessons from Apple TV’s Extrapolations

It is grounded in the factual projections mentioned in the IPCC report. And, while the IPCC report tells us why it’s crucial to come together and take climate action, Extrapolations shows us what will happen if we don’t.

Although Extrapolations tells stories of people, it is the world in which they live that takes centre stage. It begins in 2037 when the global temperature is close to 2 degrees Celsius more than what it used to be in the pre-Industrial Era. The world is roiling with many climate disasters all at once. In fact, at 2 degrees Celsius, the IPCC report projects swathes of marine biodiversity to disappear, especially coral reefs, severe heat waves, fires, cyclones and hurricanes, and ocean acidification and warming. 

It is a world which urgently needs solutions that can not only keep pace with but anticipate emerging challenges. It is a world where innovative solutions – such as desalination technology which is crucial to provide everyone with clean drinking water – are in the hands of the market (bazaar). Or rather, one Big Tech corporation, Alpha, that has monopoly over everything, from what people eat and the kind of houses they live in, to medical knowledge and ecological archiving. And, while the government (sarkaar) is signing treaties and the civil society (samaaj) trying to be active agents of change, the lopsided balance of power between these three pillars of society has constricted the agency, dignity and choice of everyone. In this socio-economic and political landscape, citizens have become just consumers of goods and services from bazaar and beneficiaries of samaaj. Extrapolations is an assertion of the role of civil society, or samaaj, in making sure government institutions protect the rights of citizens and in co-creating decisions and/or solutions for collective wellbeing. 

Co-creating decisions hold especially true now when every large, complex and mutating social problem is underpinned by the existential crisis humanity is facing. In the current state of affairs too, this existential crisis poses far more dire consequences for underserved communities. Co-creation by actors across society can offer a space wherein diversity can become the solution. 

I find myself drawn to “integral ecology” as a way forward – an interconnected way to look at social problems and ways to solve them. It urges compassionate reflection – Can my wellbeing ever be sustainable if it isn’t tied to the wellbeing of others? It asks us to think of ourselves as individuals belonging to an interconnected world. The pillars that hold us together – samaaj, sarkaar and bazaar, need to integrate “human pursuits with environmental systems at all levels.” Ensuring a safe and thriving future for our planet will need a different climate narrative –  of possibility, responsibility and togetherness. The more I think about my place in the family of things, the easier it is to tread the tightrope of individual and collective action. Climate action needs all actors – across communities, civil society, government and market to come together. As Rebecca Solnit writes, to move towards a regenerative vision of the world, we must reimagine how “we think about pretty much everything: wealth, power, joy, time, space, nature, value, what constitutes a good life, what matters, how change itself happens.”

Read more of our climate-related stories here and here.

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About the Author
Anjali Hans