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Saturday, March 05, 2016

Racing Extinction

Racing Extinction is a well-meaning documentary from the team that gave us The Cove, and again is about the thoughtless slaughter of life on the planet. This time, though, the stakes are higher than just dolphins. Perhaps the most alarming statistic given is that in 100 years, fifty percent of all species will be extinct.

Much of what is presented in this film is similar to that of Elizabeth Kolbert's book The Sixth Extinction (she is one of the talking heads here)--there have been five mass extinctions in Earth's history, and we seem to be on the cusp of a sixth, this time because of man. All of the extinctions had this in common: a high spike in carbon dioxide. Turns out that C02 levels create acidification of the oceans, which kill off a lot of marine life. For example, phytoplankton, which is crucial to keeping life on the planet in balance, is threatened. If those little things go, we all do.

The rise of carbon dioxide is caused by a few things. Most of know about fossil fuels, such as oil burning (the film uses filters to show just how much carbon dioxide comes out of the tailpipe of a car). But what was interesting is that the greatest emitter of CO2 comes from the farming of animal products. The production of beef, for example, increases methane (cow farts, basically) which pollutes the air. One scientist posits that if we all became vegetarians the crisis could be well averted.

There is also methane frozen under the surface of the poles, but global warming, which of course is caused by rising C02, is allowing it to escape the surface. After seeing this film you may want to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

Director Louie Psihoyos and his band are activists as well as documentarians. We see them busting a trendy restaurant for serving whale meat, and go undercover visiting endangered species black markets in Hong Kong. Shark fin soup is popular in china, which has meant the decimation of shark species--ninety percent of all sharks have been wiped out. They also uncover that the gills of manta rays are being used in traditional Chinese medicine, and they are able to get that animal on the list of endangered species.

Psihoyos doesn't want you to give up. The climax of the film is when he and a digital film guy (I don't know what else to call him) drive around New York City and project images and words about the environment on the sides of buildings, notably the United Nations (they are driving in a Tesla, the electric car). Passers-by are captivated, especially children, and for a fleeting moment one might feel helpful. But then I think about our government, and the representatives who are slaves to the oil industry, and I get all gloomy again. The best solution for the planet is for man to go extinct, I think.

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