With all the recent negativity and hate happening in the world, maybe you’re feeling hopeless about the state of the planet. If you’re angry or sad, then fight back with everything you’ve got. If you’re upset, or even apathetic, then give yourself a visual refresher on why this planet is worth saving.

I’m fully aware of the irony of telling someone to appreciate nature by watching more TV. But hear me out. Obviously watching television isn’t going to be the unifying force that saves us all from impending environmental disaster. But maybe, if you’re stuck in a city, surrounded by gray sidewalks and glassy skyscrapers, you’ve forgotten about the awe that nature can impress on us. And if you can’t find a weekend to hike in the mountains or canoe down a lazy river, at least capture the two-dimensional version by watching films that showcase Mother Nature in all her glory. And—this goes without saying—but turn off the lights while you’re watching.

When I first watched Into the Wild, I was a suburban middle-schooler who had went to summer camp in the woods and spent weekends weeding my family’s flower garden. The movie details the survival of a man as he moves to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild made nature big and otherworldly, stretching beyond my yard, out west, even to Alaska. Nature was dangerous and so clearly out of human control, but it was simultaneously the only authentic way for someone to live and die.

My dad made me watch A River Runs Through It a few years ago and for once I actually liked his choice in a movie. Two brothers reunite in their childhood home of rural Montana and reminisce about their lives. The calmness of a languid river and the simple, methodical activity of fly fishing is the antidote for the rushed urban life so many of us live.

Though Brokeback Mountain is primarily a story of tragic love, its setting is just as important to me as its characters and plot. The movie tells two cowboys’ gorgeously forbidden love story, and it’s set in a ranch, naturally. The loneliness and isolation of Brokeback Mountain feeds the tortured relationship between its characters, giving nature an essential role.

More recently I watched Captain Fantastic, about the classic dichotomy between a rigid, conservative life and the authentic woodsy one. Set in the thick wilderness of Washington state, Captain Fantastic explores the life of a family trying to live a structured life in the deep woods. It’s not to say that one is better than the other, but it inspires me to seek balance and perspective on our material world.

Maybe as you watch these on Netflix or wherever, the glow of your screen illuminating your face, all snug in the comfort and safety of your bed, you’ll be inspired to see the places depicted in these movies in real life. Maybe they’ll inspire a passion in you to advocate for nature. If nothing else, they’re good movies in their own right.


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