If there's one film you should see before the year is out, it's Racing Extinction.
In this riveting film, Academy Award-winning director Louis Psihoyos, with a team of artists and activists, uncovers the hidden world of endangered species and mass extinction. The film exposes the two worlds that are driving global species extinction—the international wildlife trade and the fossil fuel industry.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Psihoyos the day after watching his film at AREDAY in Snowmass, Colorado this summer.
“I’m trying to make a documentary so that your butt doesn’t hurt after 45 minutes," Psihoyos told me as we sat overlooking Snowmass Mountain.
"I want it to feel like a thriller, because what we are doing is thrilling," Psihoyos said as we discussed the value of documentaries compared to dramatic films. "We made a film that is like the Avengers, but it’s real. You have this incredible group of people with special skills and you bring them together to try and save the planet.
“We are using the same devices that you would with a narrative film. I loved Avatar. I’m working on a film right now where James Cameron is the executive producer. But I’m not so sure what people’s call to action was after Avatar. Maybe it warmed people up to the idea that we are destroying the environment, but when it’s fictionalized the call to action also feels a little fictionalized. There isn’t a call to action. So that’s the part that’s missing."
Psihoyos won an Academy Award in 2010 for his film The Cove, a true story of how an elite team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in Taiji, Japan to uncover a dark and deadly secret—the slaughter of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises. The film exposed that dolphin meat, often labeled as whale meat containing toxic levels of mercury, was sold in Japan and other parts of Asia, and the remaining dolphins were sold to dolphinariums and marine parks around the world to live a lifetime of captivity.
I asked him what he thought the overall impact was from that film and he shared a converastion he had with Cameron.
“I talked to James Cameron and he said, ‘The Cove was a great film but never hit the numbers to make a difference.’ That really hurt me to the core. Because I felt like we made a great film, the team made a wonderful film and it is making a difference," he replied. "Not at the pace we would all like but it is out there doing good. At the end of the day I am not a filmmaker, I’m more of an environmentalist, I’m an activist, I’m using the genre of filmmaking to reach people that normally wouldn’t think about this subject.”
Prior to filmmaking, Psihoyos was known for his still photography and contributions to National Geographic. He explained what he sees as a big difference between the printed image and the power of film.
“With a film you can get people to sit for 90 minutes without their cell phones and concentrate their brain and heart on the most meaningful subject in the world. You can’t do that as a still photographer. As a still photographer for National Geographic, I’ve seen someone on a plane scan through an article that took me a year and a half to do in 30 seconds or a minute and I don’t know what they are really comprehending anyway when you scan through photographs because mine were pretty full of information," he lamented.
"But, with a film you can have a chance to change somebody’s heart and that’s what we want to do. The science shows that you don’t change behavior by getting people to think differently, you change people’s behavior by getting them to feel differently. That’s what we’re doing with this film, first we break people down, get people to have a little bit more compassion for other species and then build it up from there so they internalize that hey I’m responsible for this."
"I’ve been going to this conference [AREDAY] for the last five years, we’ve been such outsiders, we’re the whinny kids in the back of the room that nobody has been listening to, and all of a sudden this [the health of the environment] is on the forefront. The conversation is now front and center. So I feel like the tide has really changed for us and things are really changing quite quickly and we have to cease that moment and what we want to do with this film is put it over the top so people can engage the leaders to do the right thing.
“There has never been a more important time in the world than to be alive now—the decisions we make in the next few years will impact the Earth and animal species for millions of years."
Psihoyos summed it up best when he said, "My goal is to make a film that doesn't just create awareness, but inspires people to get motivated to change this insane path we're on. Films to me aren't just entertainment, they are for me the most powerful weapon in the world, a weapon of mass construction.
“The idea is to try and get the film seen by as many people as possible so we can start to create this tipping point that we’ve all been talking about forever."
And now, Psihoyos has a huge opportunity to get millions of people to see his film. On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Discovery will feature Racing Extinction in more than 220 countries and territories around the world in a 24-hour period.
The plan is for Racing Extinction to be a catalyst for a larger, ongoing campaign utilizing the hashtag #StartWith1Thing. It will serve as Discovery’s call to action to create a global movement behind the film's television event and encourage everyone across the globe to make small changes that will have a huge impact on the health of the planet.
It's no coincidence the film will be featured on Discovery during COP21, when world leaders are meeting in Paris to negotiate what many hope will be a binding treaty on reducing global carbon emissions, Psihoyos added.
Watch the official trailer here:
The Racing Extinction soundtrack is available for download and streaming. The soundtrack is by Academy-Award-nominated composer J Ralph, and features the song "One Candle, written and performed by J Ralph and Sia.
Watch the music video below that features the spectacular event when images of species were projected on the Empire State Building in New York City on Aug. 1. Psihoyos' nonprofit Oceanic Preservation Society teamed up with Obscura Digital to raise awareness for species extinction worldwide by using this iconic building to reach as broad an audience as possible.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
- Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on ... ›
- 7 of the Best New Documentaries About Global Warming - EcoWatch ›
- Movies to Watch This Earth Day: EcoWatch Staff Picks - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world's largest online retailer is making it slightly easier for customer to make eco-conscious choices.
- Employees Are Fighting for Climate Change at Work - EcoWatch ›
- Amazon's Carbon Footprint Rises 15% as Company Invests $2 ... ›
- Jeff Bezos Pledges $10 Billion to Fight the Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Budweiser Re-Labels As Climate-Friendly Beer - EcoWatch ›
The Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a risk assessment for toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos Tuesday that downplayed its effects on children's brains and may be the first indication of how the administration's "secret science" policy could impact public health.
- Democratic Bill Banning Toxic Pesticides Applauded as 'Much ... ›
- Trump EPA Won't Regulate Toxic Drinking Water Chemical That ... ›
- California, Nation's Top User of Chlorpyrifos, Announces Ban on ... ›
- Wheeler's EPA Keeps Brain-Damaging Chlorpyrifos in Food ›
- Entire Pesticide Class Must Be Banned to Save Children's Health ... ›
By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
- Think Today's Refugee Crisis is Bad? Climate Change Will Make it a ... ›
- Climate Change Forces 20 Million People to Flee Each Year, Oxfam ... ›
- Meet the World's First Climate Refugees - EcoWatch ›
In his latest documentary, My Octopus Teacher, free diver and filmmaker Craig Foster tells a unique story about his friendship and bond with an octopus in a kelp forest in Cape Town, South Africa. It's been labeled "the love story that we need right now" by The Cut.
- You're Not So Different From an Octopus: Rethinking Our ... ›
- 'Eating Animals' Drives Home Where Our Food Really Comes From ... ›