Film Review by Kam Williams
Eco-Documentary Examines Toll Exacted by Unchecked Consumption of Natural Resources
Whether or not recent atmospheric trends are due to global warming, it’s pretty clear that humanity is playing a large part in climate change. But rather than engaging in silly debates about whether we’re headed for immolation or another Ice Age, it might be better to examine exactly how we are affecting the planet and what can be done to avert ecological ruin.
That is the thesis of Surviving Progress, a cautionary documentary co-directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks. With the help of Earth advocates like physicist Stephen Hawking, conservationist Jane Goodall and environmental activist Margaret Atwood, the picture issues an urgent appeal for effective intervention before it’s too late.
The filmmakers believe that a good place to start might be with a redefinition of what we mean by progress, since our slavish addiction to technological advances involves unchecked mass consumption. They refer to the way in which we deceive ourselves into believing that we can rape the rainforests and the other natural resources, ad infinitum, as the “Progress Trap.”
Primatologist Goodall observes that, “We are the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked the planet,” before wondering why such an intelligent being would willfully destroy its only home. Ms. Atwood adds that instead of thinking of the Earth as a huge bank we can just keep making endless carbon withdrawals from by credit card, “we have to think of the finite nature of the planet and how to keep it alive so that we too may remain alive.”
Some weighing-in fervently believe the answer inexorably rests with individuals. “We have to use less,” says energy expert Vaclav Smil. Similarly, Colin Bevan, director of the No Impact Project, insists that we should each be cognizant of our individual carbon footprints. “Before I go around trying to change others, maybe I should look at myself and change myself,” he concedes.
Still, given how mega-corporations have come to rationalize deforestation and the unchecked mining of minerals, it is no surprise that geneticist David Suzuki might describe economics “as a form of brain damage.” Somehow, Mr. Hawking remains optimistic about the prospects for humanity, in spite of the fact that, “We are entering an increasingly dangerous period of our history.”
In the end, behavioral scientist Daniel Povinelli perhaps sums up the situation best, by suggesting that if humans go extinct, the epitaph on our gravestone should simply read “Why?” A thought-provoking clarion call to stop using our brains in ways which are detrimental to our very survival.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 86 minutes
Distributor: First Run Features
Monday, April 9, 2012