The visionaries of our future–science-fiction writers and movie makers–still see trash as a major component of our lives. Space junkyards, apocalyptic visions of landfills taking over entire cities, smog-filled unbreathable yellow skies are only a few ways that science-fiction storytellers have highlighted or criticized today’s over-consumptive society.

Today, we’ll discover some of the ways movies and TV shows have presented their visions of future trash.

Wall-E And The Trashed Planet

Pixar’s Wall-E works on several levels to criticize modern consumption and the culture of convenience. The movie opens with a small robot, Wall-E, whose job it is to pick up and compact the trash that humans–now all living onto space ships–have left behind. 

Unfortunately for Wall-E, this job never ends. There’s just too much rubbish, and it is literally covering the entire planet.

Once Wall-E leaves Earth to find the human makers who left him behind, he finds an overweight population that still lives in the convenience culture that produced all that trash in the first place:

For a kid’s movie, Wall-E gave adults plenty to think about too. Should we keep trashing and trashing until the entire planet is a landfill? Will we learn the lesson before we colonize the stars and repeat the tragedy on other planets?

Gravity and The Danger of Space Junk

If science-fiction is anything to go by, junkyards are forsaken places where only the most courageous go, because that’s where danger lurks. Other times, space junk itself is the danger, like in the recent movie Gravity.

Actually, junk orbiting around Earth is a very real problem. Even the infinity of space, it seems that we can’t manage to not produce trash…

Terra Nova and The Smog Problem

Even though it only lasted one season, Terra Nova still has some redeeming features–one of them being a pretty realistic vision of the state of our environment by 2150 (which isn’t featured near enough in the show, in my opinion). As you can see in the trailer, nobody can breathe the air without filters and the air has become yellowed with pollution. The only solution is to travel back in the past (85 million years!) to start human civilization anew and avoid the mistakes of the past(future).

The lesson? If we don’t get our pollution problem under control, we might not be able to breathe in 150 years. And the alternative to that problem are dinosaurs. Hm. Not sure what we’d choose…