Old Movies Revisited: What the Ice Age Film Franchise Can Teach Youngsters About Global Warming 

Guest Blog by: Trisha Bhujle, blogger for The Sentimental Environmental(ist)

Offering a delicate interplay between comedy and drama that entertained audiences throughout the early 2000s, the Ice Age film franchise was loved by youngsters for its humanizing depiction of a sloth, saber-toothed tiger, and wooly mammoth going from the worst of foes to the closest of friends. Following the original movie’s release, hundreds of thousands of families flocked to theaters to witness what many considered a prehistoric twist to cinema’s more modern productions. Two decades after the very first Ice Age movie’s debut, however, it seems as if the once-beloved films have been shoved away from the spotlight – and wrongfully so. We rarely look back at the journey taken by Sid, Manny, and Diego to save their friends and family from the rapidly melting ice that they once called home. We rarely introduce younger generations to the camaraderie and teamwork that helped an entire community of animals relocate to an area that would be (temporarily) immune to the effects of sea level rise. It’s fascinating that these films designed for such young children can teach lessons that so many adults don’t yet understand – and now, they might just be the key to connecting America’s screenagers to their environment. 

As I rewatched the Ice Age movies this past month, I realized that the films offer much more than just the opportunity to reminisce about a simpler past. They offer a glimpse of the early effects of global warming on an otherwise isolated region of the world – a hint that even those who play little part in causing the problem may be faced with its most dreadful consequences. The end of the first Ice Age movie perfectly encapsulates the nonchalant attitude that people tend to have about weather and climate: 

Sid: This whole Ice Age thing’s getting old. You know what I could go for? Global warming. 

Manny: Oy. 

Diego: Keep dreaming. 

Just as many people today disregard climate change as a harmless phenomenon, the characters in Ice Age not only failed to appreciate their home’s current temperatures but also went as far as to wish for higher ones. Fast-forward 20,000 years later to Ice Age: The Meltdown, and their wish was granted. Sid, Manny, and Diego quickly realized that their home would be turned to slush in a matter of days, and they took responsibility for relocating everyone in their community to safety. Though the characters themselves could do little to stop the effects of global warming, they approached the issue with a determination to keep their friends and family dry. And though they just barely avoided drowning in a sudden influx of water, they ultimately developed a newfound appreciation for their home’s former climate – as well as a stronger sense of unity with their fellow animal companions. 

Where might education come into play in all of this? As youngsters increasingly gravitate towards screens for both entertainment and information, it’s worth considering the impact that the media could have on their attitude toward the environment. Screening movies such as the Ice Age films in classrooms – and complementing them with healthy discussions about global warming – is a great way to arm elementary and middle schoolers with knowledge about climate change without losing their attention. Aside from reinforcing the popular values of friendship and teamwork, these movies can introduce children to the challenges that all forms of life face due to warming temperatures, such as losing their homes to sea level rise. In the process, youngsters may even be inspired to minimize their own environmental impact and collaborate with their peers, ultimately generating the sustainable solutions that we so urgently need. 

We’ve heard time and time again the old adage “children are the future.” Given that today’s young people will likely be faced with the worst of the climate crisis in the coming decades, that phrase holds true now more than ever before. Though most school districts have yet to incorporate climate change into their lesson plans, educators should seriously consider harnessing the media to familiarize their students with the environment. In doing so, perhaps current and future generations of young people can find solidarity in their shared drive to fight climate change head-on, just as Sid, Manny, and Diego joined forces to protect their community from an impending flood. 

And then, maybe, just maybe, the Ice Age movies can finally make the comeback that they deserve.

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