The fossil records show us that there have been Big Five extinctions on Earth – Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic, and Cretaceous. The last of the five extinctions, wiped out the dinosaur race. The Permian was known as ‘mother of extinctions’ or ‘the Great Dying’, as it nearly wiped all life forms on Earth. Different causes are cited for these extinctions, but one common factor marine biologists, climatologist, scientists recurrently point to is the massive increase of carbon dioxide during an extinction event. The carbon dioxide spike in the contemporary times is massive when compared to other periods of carbon dioxide increases in Earth’s atmosphere. The cause is pointed to the unbridled burning of fossil fuels, leading to the totally reversal of our planet’s geological history. Although the MNCs armed with panel of their own scientists, refuting any claims of climate change, we are feeling and witnessing the harsh changes inflicted by our own kind on the planet and its numerous species.
Oscar winning documentary film-maker and Former National Geographic contributor Louis Psihoyos’ “Racing Extinction” has brought in different talking heads, who all ruminate upon the aforementioned things (things that pushing to an man-made extinction), which we might have learned through numerous other journals, books and documentaries. But, considering how we humans are still not serious enough to see through the forces threatening our survival, it is worthy to hear once again the big story of life-and-death. “Racing Extinction” is also filled with stunning, distressing, and hope-inducing imagery, which pushes enough emotional buttons to commit ourselves to the action-mode.
We like seeing animals, don’t we? In footage or in real life, gazing at animals has been transformed into an entertainment value. But, then there is much other animal-centric footages, which the big glitzy corporations and illegal smuggling rings don’t want you to see. Images of de-finned sharks gradually pulled down to the bottom of ocean, where unable to swim, the creature will die a very slow death; images of warehouse rooftops filled with manta rays, and shark fins, left to dry under the sun; the song of the last male Kauai bird (the very last of its kind), singing for the female bird that will never come. However, Pshiyos’ documentary is not the kind that simply laments for the losses created by our weedy species. It starts with a daring act, where the crew in a stealth mode expose a American restaurant selling illegal whale meat, and it ends up with a brilliant note of hope, which questions what our actions are gonna be. The findings or information you are going to discover through the documentary would be less satisfying for ones who have been paying enough attention to these topics, but it is positively infectious to see aspirant individuals doing little great things to fend off the possible extinction.
The wide variety of topics discussed in “Racing Extinction” is certainly a little too much. From our reliance to consume meat to emissions of carbon dioxide, production of methane to hunting of manta ray to crackdown of illegal endangered-species-selling Chinese den to plankton production to warming of oceans to Elon Musk’s electric cars, the documentary jumps from one topic to another quickly without giving the well-rounded idea about the problems to a viewer armed with little or no information about these things. Yes, the information are compiled in the most engaging way that would make casual viewers to do their own researches, although I felt the impact would have been more stronger had it profoundly explored a few set of ideas.
The documentary is very open about its emotionally manipulating tactics. The use of melancholic music and tear-jerking footage trigger set of emotions, ranging from rage to sorrow. But, this is the kind of trigger that might make the majority of population to take heed of our self-destructive ways. The documentary largely succeeds on the front – creating awareness among the masses. And, the final, magnanimous light show is just amazing. Researchers and well-informed individuals may think that light shows in Empire State building would be yet another sideshow, ineffective to break people’s ignorance. However, the look of wonder and sadness in the little children’s eyes, while looking at the images of extinct and hunted down living beings, gives us abundance of hope. May be we will feel ashamed, when those children confront us on why we just stood-by, doing nothing about this? May be without thinking that ‘installing solar panels or eating less meet aren’t the right, feasible option’, we the grown-ups would really start focus on the big issues at hand.
“Racing Extinction” (90 minutes) will definitely make you asking “What should I do to stop this path to destruction”. It’s an effective, entertaining and the most important documentary you and your children should be watching. ‘All is not lost’ says this documentary. Let’s hope so and take some immediate actions.