In the upcoming science fiction film "After Earth", our home planet goes through some serious changes over the next 1,000 years. So it's fitting that the film's stars, actor Will Smith and his son Jaden, would take some time to envision what the future of Earth might entail.
In a Google+ Hangout today (April 23), the stars of "After Earth " joined SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, futurist Ray Kurzweil, Alexandra Cousteau and a group of students to discuss what the planet Earth might just look like in the next millennium. The event, sponsored by Columbia Pictures, was billed as "After Earth Day" and came one day after the annual day to celebrate the Earth.
"It looks like great entertainment, but it raises some profound issues [about the future of the planet]," said Kurzweil, the director of engineering for Google and moderator of the discussion said of the movie. [See Photos of 'After Earth']
"After Earth" explores the relationship between a father and son — played by Will and Jaden Smith — after they crash-land on Earth 1,000 years into the future, after humans have deserted the planet to live in space. A "cataclysmic" event forced all humans to leave Earth, leaving the planet to be overrun by other, unfriendly species, according to a movie description released by Columbia Pictures. The film — directed and co-written by M. Night Shyamalan — launches into theaters in June.
"With this film it was such a perfect collision of art entertainment, education and a posing of fantastic questions," Will Smith said during hangout. "As an artist, this film does exactly what I always dreamed to be able to do with entertain and to also be able to pose interesting questions."
Smith went on to explain that shooting the movie helped him and his son start to understand how human activity influences the planet.
"I feel like I really saw some true beauty in the world after shooting in Costa Rica," said Jaden Smith. "After that experience, it really showed me how important it is to save the world."
Alexandra Cousteau, a filmmaker and granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, also expressed her concern for the planet. She explained that the Earth today is in a vulnerable position, but by using technology and enthusiasm, a new generation can start to change the Earth for the better.
Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of the private spaceflight company SpaceX and chief of the Tesla electric car company, said he thinks that these issues could be motivation for humanity to start moving away from Earth and into space.
"I think we want to be a space-faring civilization," Musk said during the event. "Either we're a space-faring civilization or we're going to be bound to the Earth until some kind of extinction event [occurs]."
To Musk, the idea that humanity can leave the Earth to create a new human life elsewhere in the universe is "inspiring" and "exciting."
Other panelists were more interested in finding new and different ways to help combat the effects of global climate change.
"I have faith in our generation," one of the eighth graders said. "I think that we can help this earth. I'm sure we can [find a way to] not waste this planet and go to a different planet. I'm optimistic that we can save this planet and do the right things."
"After Earth" is set for release nationwide on June 7.
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Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight. Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.