Racing Extinction, the alarming documentary from the Oceanic Preservation Society, makers of 2009’s dolphin-massacre doc The Cove, appears to posit that the truest enemy to the environment is capitalism. Why are endangered species still being hunted to extinction? Demand. Why are oil and gas companies racing to drill every drop of fossil fuel from the earth? Profits.
But the solutions the filmmakers propose aren’t about changing the system so much as making the environmentally friendly choice the more lucrative one. Amid graphic images of manta rays being butchered in Indonesia, OPS offers some hope: Isla Mujeres in Mexico, once a prime spot for fishing endangered whale sharks, is now a destination for swimming with the animals. The fishermen killing manta rays could do the same, says impassioned photographer Shawn Heinrichs, if OPS could show them how much more money there is trafficking in tourism instead.
The filmmakers’ message, when they finally get around to delivering it, is that if everyone in the world would #startwith1thing for the environment — eat fewer animal products, install solar panels, ban trade in endangered animals — the positive effects would accumulate. But when they devote most of their film to the horrors wrought by humanity and barely ten minutes to their solutions, and when those solutions are all about mitigating problems, it’s hard to feel anything but despondent.
Maybe the film’s website, where viewers are directed to actually learn about how to stop killing the planet, holds more answers than Racing Extinction itself.
Directed by Louie Psihoyos
Opens September 18, Village East Cinema