WALL-E: Steve Jobs meets Al Gore

Since it's summertime, this column will have the occasional off-topic diversion. Today, I have to take a few minutes to talk about the new Disney-Pixar film, WALL-E.

Since it's summertime, this column will have the occasional off-topic diversion. Today, I have to take a few minutes to talk about the new Disney-Pixar film, WALL-E. Don't worry, no spoilers here, but I will try and tie in education. I took my kids and a good chunk of the Drama Club to the movie last night after an end-of-the-year banquet. The response was universally positive, but I have to say that I found the movie remarkably dark.

Here's the premise, for those of you who haven't seen it or read other reviews: A century or so from now, we've so badly trashed the earth that the mega-corporation now running the world evacuates everyone to space for five years while robots like WALL-E WALL-E clean up. Unfortunately, 700 years later, the earth is still a disaster, the main character (one particular WALL-E robot) is the only functioning robot left still trying unsuccessfully to clean up, and the future generations of humans living in the space colony have grown immeasurably fat and dysfunctional, unaware that Earth even exists.

I have to admit, being quite the Apple fan, that my favorite part just might have been WALL-E's sound when he fully recharged via his solar panels: the familiar Apple startup tone signaled that he was ready to go. WALL-E's love interest, a robot sent automatically by the space colony to search for life on Earth, had a head that looked remarkably like an AirPort and could easily be the next reference design for the iPod (keep in mind that Steve Jobs recently sold Pixar to Disney, becoming Disney's largest single shareholder).

So what was so dark about the movie? It was largely a robot love story, after all. My 6-year old picked up on it a bit; the Drama Club definitely got it: basically, we destroyed the earth with our incredible consumerism and were too fat, lazy, and apathetic to do anything about it, even after we had to be evacuated to space to escape the nearly apocalyptic destruction.

It's a message that hit pretty close to home; while certainly a caricature, the message was very clear: it's not just about buying a hybrid, it's about changing the way we consume and do business on earth. I'll admit, I'm a pretty big tree-hugger whose heart bleeds increasingly as I get older, so the movie really resonated with me. Same for my 6-year old (He's enjoying the summer, wearing flip-flops, since my wife read him an article on how many gallons of water can be saved by not having to wash socks. Every time he puts on his flip-flops, he announces that he's saving the world.)

However, even if you're not a full-blown hippie like my little guy, there is quite a bit that we can do in Ed Tech (here's the tie-in) to ease our impact. Thin clients, high-efficiency servers, consolidated data centers, laptops and LCDs, low-power desktops (no, your students don't really need dual quad-cores and SLI graphics), and the like can go a long ways toward ensuring that some very necessary equipment in schools doesn't turn into unnecessary waste and consumption.

Nice job, Disney/Pixar. Now what was that about Apple going green?

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