A documentary by Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky. In English and multiple languages, with English subtitles. Rated PG
A new United Nations report gives humans about a dozen years to put the brakes on this whole killing-the-planet thing. That’s probably optimistic given the public’s general disinterest in crises that don’t involve sex or money, and our alleged leadership’s determination to keep climate change off the front pages. (Kids, ask your grandparents what “front pages” are, or were.)
Of course, climate change really is about sex and money, just not in a tabloid-entertainment sense; basically, the planet’s rapid submergence in a big vat of boiling something is an extension of everything else we’re calling “rape culture” these days. That is, a whole lot of (mostly) men with power and resources consider all life forms on earth to be theirs for the taking, and same goes for any goodies to be plundered from beneath the surface, as well.
In their latest take on where we’re at now, Jennifer Baichwal, Ed Burtynsky, and Nicholas de Pencier speed up the pace as they travel the world to examine scars now big enough be seen from space, if barely noticed by the evening news. (Kids, once again…)
Like Vancouver’s Nettie Wild, these globe-trotting Canadians—with their backgrounds in filmmaking, large-scale photography, and cinematography—are not so agenda-driven that they can’t see the raw majesty of these impacts. Whether it’s the relatively organic mining of marble in Italy, carving of ancient mammoth tusks in China, or the massive excavation of potash in remote parts of Russia, the marks left by people and their gargantuan machines can be objectively beautiful.
The long-term effects are not, however, as underlined by occasional title cards and in Alicia Vikander’s somewhat superfluous narration.
The actual cost of poaching, polluting, and ripping shit out of the earth and then remediating the damage should make the continued destruction prohibitively expensive. But hey, taxpayers cover a lot of those costs, and there are dollars to be made in a hurry before the rising seas wipe away shorelines and spit out poison instead of sushi.
Named after what future humans (or perhaps head-shaking aliens) will call this era, Anthropecene is easy to watch. But in the end it’s a kind of pornography—hot stuff, in which we all get fucked.