Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

#SteveReviews

#SteveReviews: Racing Extinction

It’s time for another #SteveReviews, I am going to try to keep posting these quite regularly as there are a few people I know would like to see more – hopefully it’s the same across the board. This time, it’s the turn of the 2015 documentary film Racing Extinction that I first saw around Christmas time four years ago. It’s no surprise to anyone that the ecological world is in turmoil because of the actions of humankind but this film certainly highlights some of the big issues and those trying to change that.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when talking about the burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide and how that has led to an increase in global warming since the Industrial Revolution. This is touched on in the film, with a nice cameo from Elon Musk and other unlikely contenders in trying to revolutionise the world to make it a better place for both humans and wildlife. The increase in carbon dioxide isn’t just a problem in the air, about 30% is taken up by the world’s oceans where it lowers sea water pH making it more acidic, leading to coral deaths etc. This is one of the many additional issues of burning fossil fuels that’s covered in the film, raising awareness of problems that many may not have heard about before.

The most important thing the documentary achieves is introducing viewers to the Anthropocene (this term is still debated), but is the geological epoch we’re currently living through and began when human activity became the main driving force for geological changes. Due to the damage our species is doing to the planet, some scientists predict that within the next 100 years the Earth could see over half of it’s species become extinct if we don’t act now. This is a recurring message in the film and one that truly saddens me to think just such a catastrophic loss of biological life could occur during my lifetime.

Another aspect that film delivers on is highlighting the illegal market for shark fins and traditional medicine in China. I was aware of such markets before but I had never seen them visually to the extent shown in Racing Extinction. For those that don’t know know, millions of sharks are slaughtered every year in order for their fins to be cut off for them to then be turned into soup. Sharks are a prehistoric lineage, appearing 200 million years before the dinosaurs and having survived multiple mass extinctions throughout our planet’s history. In the past 100 years, their populations have decreased to point where some species are on the brink of extinction.

Despite being a bit gloomy and upsetting at times, the documentary does provide some answers to help us all live better and greener lives. This includes the use of electric cars instead of petrol/diesel and a reduction of meat in our diets. Now, these won’t be available to all of course as they are Western luxuries (especially to have the option) but it’s a starting point and hopefully if you haven’t seen Racing Extinction before and you do afetr reading this, you’ll make a few changes to your lifestyle too.

Racing Extinction drives home that saving the planet is a extremely worthwhile venture, especially if we wish to keep seeing wildlife within the confines of nature. This is highlighted by featuring Joel Satore and his work to photograph every species currently held in captivity, unfortunately some of those individuals such as Toughie (the last Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog) have now died and the species is now extinct. We still have time to act, time to save the planet and time to change our ways. If you need any further convincing then please do watch Racing Extinction and hopefully it will move you as much as it moved me.

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