In response to increasing concerns over global warming, Hollywood has developed a trend of environmental films.
This trend has led to the release of two mainstream documentaries, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour. Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Chair of Conservation Ecology at the Nicholas School of Environmental Sciences, is featured as an expert consultant in The 11th Hour. Pimm said he believes the success of these two films is due in large part to the star power of Hollywood.
"An Inconvenient Truth is a hugely effective movie," Pimm said. "There's no question that the leadership of famous stars sets an image that other people want to follow."
An Inconvenient Truth and The 11th Hour have reached a wide audience. An Inconvenient Truth won an Academy Award for Best Documentary and grossed $24 million in the U.S., the fourth highest total for a documentary to date. The 11th Hour was released in 111 theatres and grossed $707,343 in the U.S.
"It's important that scientists get out there and do the science," Pimm said. "But people need to know about it, and Hollywood is helping with that."
Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist who attained his masters' degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences in 1992, said he thought environmental media was extremely helpful in raising awareness of environmental issues because of its ability to reach a large audience.
"Making environmental documentaries is nothing new, but now they're being made in a way that is reaching a lot more people," Nichols said.
Nichols, like Pimm, is featured in The 11th Hour. He also works with Animal Planet and National Geographic to produce environmental documentaries and television shows.
"It's helpful in just about every sector of society when people who are at the top of the heap are thinking about environmental issues, whether you're talking about rock stars, or leading political figures, or movie stars-the people we call celebrities," Nichols said. "It's a sign that we're starting to take these issues more seriously."
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