I can’t remember when I first saw WALL-E, but I definitely was under the age of 16. Rewatching it now, as a twenty-two year old student, I have realized what an ecological marvel it is; I was pointed to re-watch it in part by a brief analysis in Timothy Morton’s The Ecological Thought.
I was struck by the overwhelming scale artificial objects were given; everything is gargantuan, such as the ship the Axiom, that blocks out the sky and is filled with unknowningly complex interior workings. Importantly, many giant things are defunct, and simply rubbish. A huge ‘Buy n Large Ultrastore’ sprawls in the urban wasteland, no longer used; enormous freighters are lined up in a row, rusting away and useless.
Most noticeably of all, the amount of waste rampant in the defunct planet is paradoxically larger than the environment it exists in, even in the compacted towers that WALL-E (and supposedly his deceased comrades) worked to turn it into. How can there be more waste than… well, anything else? We find this question crop up again later onboard the Axiom, where WALL-E is trapped in the waste disposal zone. Here, two giant robots work compacting the eternal stream of rubbish thrown into their compartment. Why would a ship with the purpose of conserving human life be so inefficient as to create so much waste?
Interestingly, the robots compacting waste on the Axiom are simply larger versions of WALL-E, suggesting that instead of solving the issue that has apparently followed humans onto the ship (i.e. over-consumption, wasteful lifestyles) humanity has simply upgraded the solution that was there, not necessarily solving anything, but with all the appearance of productivity.