We’re no longer creeping towards the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, nor are we on the cusp of it: we’re in it. You’ve probably not even noticed, but it doesn’t take a cataclysmic disaster to trigger one of these events, such as an asteroid impact or supervolcano eruption. Although arguably, there has been a relatively recent catastrophe for our planet: the arrival of humans.
Species are disappearing at 1,000 times the normal background rate of loss. Why? Deforestation, agriculture, anthropogenic climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and overharvesting, just to name a few.
Perhaps one day humans will have the tools to fix some of their mistakes, but an event on this scale cannot be undone. And while we have already passed the point of no return, that is not to say we should give up and continue business as usual. Now is the time for change, to do something, and Discovery’s phenomenal new movie will surely spur the most belligerent of us into action.
Called "Racing Extinction," Academy Award-Winner Louie Psihoyos’s film premieres on December 2 in more than 220 countries and territories. And it’s no coincidence that this coincides with the Paris Climate Conference COP21, which will ultimately decide the fate of our planet.
The name is a bit of a giveaway, but here is a brief synopsis: “In Racing Extinction, a team of artists and activists exposes the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet.” Think over-fishing, shark-finning, illegal trade of animal products, whaling, agriculture, etc.
If you’ve seen Psihoyos’s award-winning movie “The Cove,” you will know that his work is not for the faint-hearted. IFLScience has already seen the film, and there was barely a dry eye afterward. You can write the longest essay about why our actions are wrong, and no one will do anything. You have to physically show people, and we wholeheartedly encourage every single one of you to give up two hours of your day to watch this, because it truly will change the way you look at your home planet.
Image credit: International Fund for Animal Welfare Animal Rescue/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
“When I started this project I had no idea there was a mass extinction event going on right now,” Psihoyos told IFLScience at a screening event at London Zoo. “It’s the biggest, most important story in the world bar none. And it’s happening before our eyes.” And for Psihoyos, this film was never about winning trophies or money; it’s about “getting minds and hearts on the same page so we can change the biggest problem in the whole world. And at Discovery we have a chance of doing that.”
Laziness is not an excuse, but what can you do to help? “The take home message is do something, even if it’s just one thing, do something and stick to it,” animal advocate Dr. Brian May told IFLScience at the screening. “None of us are perfect, but we can do a lot. We really can.”
For Dr. May, it starts with reducing our meat and dairy consumption, and extending our respect for the creatures that inhabit the Earth. “It’s tough giving up meat, but if everyone did it for just one day a week? There would be a massive change to the world.”
Indeed, as Psihoyos points out, raising animals for human consumption creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector combined. “So if you wanna change the world,” he said, “change your diet.” But it's more than that: Collectively, we need to stop the illegal trade of wildlife and wildlife products, reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, and treat the planet with respect. No one person can make a difference, but together we can drive change.
The movie will air at 9:00 p.m. EST on December 2 on the Discovery Channel, but you can also pre-order it on DVD, iTunes or Amazon.