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3 Must-See Environmental  Documentaries

This decade produced numerous groundbreaking documentaries presenting the world’s most current environmental issues: Energy Sourcing, Animal Captivity and Climate Change so here are our top 3 documentaries with an environmental message:

1. Gasland (2010)

IMDB | Gasland

The discovery of cheap hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ propelled America in the global race to be the world’s number one energy superpower but all the while neglecting the devastating resulting environmental consequences. After receiving a lucrative offer of $100,000 from a natural gas company to lease his family’s land in Pennsylvania, Josh Fox began his investigation into the environmental truths around the effects of shale gas exploration in surrounding US counties.

Some notable moments in the film:

  • The scene that catapulted ‘fracking’ to mainstream media attention was Josh Fox’s documentation of residents lighting their tap water on fire. The water was so contaminated with natural gas and fracking fluid chemicals that the stream of water would burst into flames at the touch of a lighter! More shocking still, the local state authorities still claimed that the tap water  was not contaminated by way of hydraulic fracturing wells...
  • Fracking has been made exempt from any regulation enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This is because the government have initiated a loophole that leaves safety and science superseded by politics and profits.
  • The insidious health effects of contaminated water consumption were documented throughout the film and some key issues were the neurological effects on humans, hair loss on animals and mass killings of fish and freshwater fauna.

Gasland exemplifies the power that economic gains have over environmental consequences while highlighting the simple reality that state authorities are as ignorant of the problematic natural gas industry as the public...

2. Blackfish (2013)

IMDB | Blackfish

“To this day there is no record of an orca causing harm when in the wild.”

Tilikum, was a bull orca captured at 2 years of age in the North Atlantic. He was trained using methods of punishment, harassed by fellow orcas and caged with them in a metal container. Tilikum was later infamous for the deaths of 3 individuals including his 2 orca trainers. This documentary film reflects on the incidents using footage and interviews to depict the consequences of keeping captive such large, intelligent and sentient beings.

Some notable moments in the film:

  • The hunt in the Puget Sound 1970 presented the early capture of baby orcas from their families and apparently even the fishermen couldn’t fight the tears as they kidnapped the baby whales who continued to cry out to their mothers, only 25 feet away.
  • The capture of a calf from his mother within the SeaWorld Park proved that the whales experienced extreme trauma when their offspring were separated from them. The interviews with former trainers showed that the SeaWorld administration dismissed the need for mothers to remain with their babies.
  • Scenes from 70 different incidents that the trainers seemed unaware of highlighted their ignorance while SeaWorld continued to rebut the claims made in this film... 

Tilikum was the largest orca kept in captivity and this impassioned documentary articulates the need for viewers to boycott sites of animal captivity.

3. Before the Flood (2016)

IMDB | Before The Flood

This documentary presented by National Geographic was produced by UN Messenger of Peace, Leonardo DiCaprio who uncovered the harsh realities that global warming has had on every continent. He introduces the opposition in the climate change ‘debate’ and exposes the ‘powerful special interests’ who manipulate media coverage to glamorise climate change denialists. DiCaprio spent 3 years with director, Fisher Stevens, collecting interviews from a range of world leaders and influential figures to cover the vested interests and solutions to climate change.

Some notable moments in the film:

  • Interview with Professor Michael E. Mann who discusses being called a fraud and attacked by Congressmen. He ascertains that the ‘fossil fuel interests finance most of climate change denialism’.
  • Interview with Elon Musk who claimed that all we need to transition the whole world to sustainable energy is 100 gigafactories! This simply requires the big companies to accelerate the transition and governments to set the rules.
  • Interview with Barack Obama who explained his doubts that the targets in the Paris Climate Accord were enough to solve the problem of climate change. The mass displacement of populations due to coastal flooding would lead to resource scarcity and competition which are issues of national security.

The aim of the film was to express the urgency of the global crisis by explaining the science of climate change to the public. He aimed to promote renewables to a capitalist economy and drive out their investment in natural resources. The film highlights that we can contribute by reducing our own carbon footprint and voting to keep the right policy makers in power.

These documentaries are only a handful of the greatest films presenting the world’s most pressing environmental issues to date: Energy Sourcing, Animal Captivity and Climate Change. Some have received critical acclaim, some are Oscar-nominated but nevertheless they are ALL must-watches.

By Anaka Nair - Online Journalism Intern

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