Take a Drink: for each new advocacy idea
Take a Drink: for trips to endangered species markets or traditional medicine shops
Take a Drink: whenever the film shirts courses to another topic
Take a Drink: for outrage
Do a Shot: when you want to look away
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
It shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone that our planet is really, really screwed. And yet, we keep doing what we’re doing (myself entirely included), because screw future generations.
Walk to the mail box instead of drive to the mailbox just so this little shit has clean air? Nope!
Racing Extinction is putatively a documentary about the many ways in which our current lifestyles are driving many of the Earth’s species into extinction, but expands from there to show both how we’re putting humankind itself at risk of extinction.
Director Louie Psihoyos, who also directed the extremely disturbing dolphin hunting documentary The Cove, here has a much larger and more diffuse target, and largely hits it nonetheless. The overriding message you’ll take away from this film is our great insignificance as a species in the face of Earth’s history, and our outsized impact in destroying it, or, at very least, ensuring we’ll just be a fossil record ourselves someday, for the precise reason that we’re driving so many other species to extinction.
Oh, and Psihoyos sounds exactly the same as and even looks a bit like Anthony Bourdain, but don’t let that distract you.
Who, ironically, almost certainly has had a bowl or 20 of shark fin soup in his time.
Psihoyos and his intrepid documentary crew try and impart this message in any way they can think, and the film covers an impressive array of topics, from the way economics drives good and bad environmental trends to China’s lax endangered species trade protections and insatiable appetite for bad medicine, which has the unique capability of wiping out species in record time whenever one dipshit convinces himself, say, manta ray gills cure cancer.
Don’t worry, though, good ‘ol Western society is still carrying the standard for fucking up everything for everyone, particularly in our meat & cheese-heavy diets which do more damage to the atmosphere (because cow farts are going to kill us all) than all vehicular emissions combined. When scientists in the film explain how hitting the right temperature to free up all of the methane that’s been locked in ice since the last Ice Age could accelerate Global Warming as much as 6 degrees in 4 years, just like that, it’s hard not to get chills.
All of this is conveyed beautifully, with small details like the recorded mating call of the last Hawaiian O’o bird, singing for mate that will never come and big images in every sense of the word, as the filmmakers take to the streets of New York and project the images and sounds of all we’ve lost, and all we’re losing on its man-made landscape. It’s a gorgeous climax, and one that really drives home how much we can accomplish with even the barest of efforts. How about this fact? If every American skipped meat and cheese just one day a week for a year, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off of the road. Yes, we can do that. So let’s do it.
Structurally, this is far from a perfect example of the documentary form. It’s very scattershot, and not all of the elements really bring all that much to the table, like a camera that captures CO2 emotions on an infrared-like spectrum. Human’s emit CO2? No shit. We also emit plenty of methane, so… mass murder, right?
Did I get the message right, movie? Did I?
Other parts are a little less… scientific, like the activist blubbering as he tells the tale of a manta ray who totally knew he was trying to help it when he removed a fishhook from its back. Right, and my cat also loves me for any other reason than that I feed her.
The real issue I had with the filmmakers, though, was, after helping make manta ray fishing illegal in all of Indonesia, they return to a fishing village whose sole livelihood depends on it with an inflatable ray and a movie projector full of pretty images of manta rays and an idea for transforming the local economy through tourism. After several minutes of children watching their film elatedly, the filmakers say the children are the future, and “we’re just bring a message, it’s really up to them”. Good job, Tesla-affording white person… good job.
You may know Racing Extinction as this year’s Oscar nominee that you’ve never heard of (Original Song- J. Ralph… it’s a fine one), but if you need some motivation to go do something good for the Earth, you should watch it. Or just eat vegan once a week (all the carbs you want, though- go hogwild).