(Pnoto by Alvin Joseph Kasiban)

January 22, 2016, 11:40a.m. – AN OSCAR-winning director’s newest documentary highlighted mankind’s supposed role in potentially causing the sixth mass extinction event in the world.

“Racing Extinction,” directed by Louie Psihoyos, showed evidence of the rapid rate of animal and plant extinction caused by man-made activities.

The 90-minute film shown at the Benavides Auditorium Thursday warned of the “Anthropocene Extinction,” an epoch in which mankind has brutally disrupted the ecological balance, resulting in mass extinction.  

The film exposed the illegal wildlife trade and outed a whale meat restaurant in the United States. Psihoyos’ team also went undercover to investigate the dark world of shark fin and Manta ray gill trade in Hong Kong and mainland China. The products are popular due to their supposed anti-carcinogenic and medical qualities.

Through laboratory experiments and comparisons of archived photographs, ocean acidification and the subsequent degradation of corals and other calcium carbonate-based marine organisms were proven to have a worsening effect on marine ecosystems and coastal habitats since 2010.

Meanwhile, abnormally high carbon dioxide and methane emissions from transportation, factories and livestock were made visible to the naked eye using the latest and innovative high definition FLR (forward looking infrared) camera with a special color filter. 

According to the film, even the trapped methane escaping from frozen reservoirs in the Arctic were resulting in a “runaway” greenhouse effect, which may have caused the Permian mass extinction that wiped out 95 percent of species some 250 million years ago.

Failure to act, Psihoyos claimed in the film, was not an option: “As a species we’re one step away from greatness or the greatest disaster in the last 65 million years.”


Movement for a change

Racing Extinction premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast worldwide on The Discovery Channel last December. 

A social media environmental awareness campaign started in November.

The visit to UST was part of Racing Extinction’s tour around the country’s biggest universities. Jennelyn Mortillero of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific said the campus screening should be a “catalyst of change.”

“We concentrated on Manila’s big universities. Though we only had a day to spend with Thomasians, it was evident that they witnessed how this program could help them understand this worsening problem of the environment,” she said.

AA Abjelina, public relations manager at Discovery Channel partner Perceptions Inc., noted positive reactions from viewers.

“The film’s message is clear: the mass extinction [event] is no joke,” said Thelma Maraña of the University’s Office for Student Affairs.

Multiple activities at the Tan Yan Kee lobby coincided with the film showing. There were booths where students took pictures with a “pledge” of their choice such as “Volunteer with a conservation group,” “Save on energy,” “Walk or use the bike more,” “Meatless Mondays” and “Cut down on seafood.”

Outside the building, students were able to ride revolutionary bambikes, or bikes made of bamboo.

The documentary, filmed by the Oceanic Preservation Society and financed by Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk, featured contributions from photographers and photojournalists such as Joel Sartore, Shawn Heinrichs and Paul Hilton, and environmental activists such as racecar driver Leilani Munter.  Kimberly Joy V. Naparan


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