Many people stream Netflix to binge watch their favorite shows or movies. As a climate scientist, it has been interesting to watch the impact of “Don’t Look Up.” It is Netflix’s second most-watched English-language film of all time. However, they didn’t stop with the movie. They created an entire community to enable engagement on the climate crises. On April 13th, Netflix continued to flex its muscle in the environmental and climate space with the release of its Sustainability Collection. Do these efforts position Netflix as a climate change and sustainability influencer?
In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate about the efficacy of Hollywood as a voice on climate change. Some arguments have claimed that Hollywood is not doing enough. A 2019 New York Times article even asked, “Why is Hollywood So Scared Of Climate Change?” Others have frowned upon the “scientist warns everyone, nobody does anything, and nothing can be done” narrative because it may skew viewer perceptions that they can affect change. Netflix’s new Sustainability Collection may offer a new lens on the role that Hollywood can play.
Dr. Emma Stewart is Netflix’s Chief Sustainability Officer. She wrote in a blog, “This Earth Month, let us entertain you with stories about our planet and its heroes — with everything from cooking shows to dramas, stand-up comedy specials to family titles, to nature documentaries and climate fiction.” In an email, Katerina Fragos, a manager of Netflix’s sustainability efforts, said, “The collection is a curation of 170+ sustainability stories ranging from dramas like Ragnarok and Okja to comedies like Don’t Look Up, from documentaries like A Life on Our Planet to family friendly titles like Bigfoot Family. She was particularly excited about “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” (her personal favorite) and future releases: Captain Nova (April 1st), Our Great National Parks (April 13th) and Youth v Gov (April 29th). According to Fragos, “The collection explores solutions, challenges, unconventional heroes and approaches the topic using humor, metaphor, beauty, wonder and more.”
In 2021 Business Insider’s Katie Canales dissected the demographics of Netflix’s users. While analysts say the streaming service looks like the typical American profile, Canales points out that typical user traits include: millennial, earns less than $50,000, and more females (barely), suburban, liberal to moderate. With 74 million users in the U.S. and Canada along, according to Business Insider, the service can certainly reach a lot of people. Only time will tell if efforts like the “Don’t Look Up” community or Sustainability Collection are actually influencing things or simply entertaining people.