What Happened to Earth in Finch?

‘Finch’ is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama that follows one of the last remaining humans as he sets off on an arduous cross-country journey. Accompanied by his faithful dog and newly created robot, the protagonist is forced to abandon his shelter due to an incoming storm that is expected to last for weeks. The calamity that Finch is escaping gives us a few hints about just how dangerous the Earth’s weather has become, and as the narrative continues, a few more details are revealed.

At one point, as the ailing man narrates one of his many stories to his robot, he even blames humanity for the catastrophe. So what really happened to Earth in ‘Finch’ that turned it into such a hellish, barren wasteland? Let’s find out.

What Happened to Earth?

From the film’s opening scene, where we see Finch scavenging for food in a deserted city, it becomes evident that living creatures can no longer survive outdoors. We see Finch wearing heavy protective gear that shields him from the sun, and the onboard computer of his vehicle repeatedly warns him of rising temperatures and incoming storms. Therefore, right off the bat, it is clear that the planet’s atmosphere has severely changed and is now not conducive to life.

Once they embark on their journey, Finch begins to explain the history of the post-apocalyptic world to his robot, Jeff. He describes the ozone layer as “swiss cheese,” claiming that most of it got “fried” by an enormous solar flare that hit the Earth. This largely explains the planet’s condition and why Finch (and his pet dog) cannot venture out into the sun. This also connects to why Finch is reading up on ionic radiation, and it becomes clear that he is ailing from cancer due to exposure to unfiltered sunlight.

Therefore, most life on Earth has been destroyed by the sun’s rays. Massive electrical storms, like the one Finch is fleeing, have therefore become common due to the subsequent change in the Earth’s climate and rising temperatures. The fact that there is almost no vegetation left also causes soil to dry up and become loose, which is subsequently carried by the storms in massive dust clouds. Therefore, apart from the cancer, Finch’s perpetual cough also hints that his lungs are badly damaged from breathing in dust. Perhaps the one silver lining about the Earth’s atmosphere being destroyed is the perpetual nighttime auroras that are visible all across the planet instead of just at the poles.

However, the calamity doesn’t end there, and as one can see, most of the world’s infrastructure is also destroyed, and Finch has to make his own electricity. The fact that he is scanning and uploading books into his robot’s memory also shows that the internet no longer functions. This is because of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) caused by a geomagnetic storm (shortly after the destructive solar flare) which destroyed all the electrical systems on Earth.

Therefore, Earth’s dismal state, as seen in ‘Finch,’ has been caused largely due to an unforeseen solar event. However, the titular character also blames humanity for making things worse by turning on each other at a time of crisis, resulting in a complete breakdown of society. Though things appear bleak, the film closes on a hopeful note with the brief visuals of a butterfly and fresh grass. It is also revealed that the sun’s rays are not as harmful around San Francisco, which allows Finch and his pet to finally feel the sun’s warmth after hiding from it for years. Therefore, it is hinted that the Earth’s ozone layer is slowly getting replenished, making it possible for life to bloom again on the planet.

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