An erupting volcano ignites the night sky…
Coal chugs down a railroad track, headed for a processing facility...
A picture-perfect housewife marvels at her brand-new refrigerator filled with plastic wrapped groceries…
Juxtapositions like these are plentiful in Anthropocene, illustrating just how drastically our home planet has changed over the past billion years.
The film transports us from the first cyanobacteria to the first steam engine, examining the influence that humans have had on the Earth. The question remains, is this human effect significant enough to warrant a new geological epoch, the so-called Anthropocene? An international commission of seven geologists reflect on what we know of our past, and what we can change about our future.
Through ten chapters, the film leaves no era unexamined. We see the early inklings of spoken language, and how improved cooperation allows humans to dominate their neighboring species. The very first livestock peacefully graze the open plains as an essentially new breed—domesticated animals. The first rice patties emit methane into the atmosphere and before long, the steam engine is burning coal and the nuclear age has introduced novel chemicals to the ecosystem.
This OVID.tv Film is a Visual Essay
Archival material and footage of natural phenomena act as visual evidence, while geologist voiceover provides the connective tissue of argument—making the film a sort of visual essay. Optimistic spokesmen of the 1950s advertise the merits of plastic and automobiles, but their promises suddenly sound ominous followed by the geologist’s warnings. Moments of clarity are located in these types of contrasts, as we are forced to reconcile our consumerist wants with their consequences, however unintentional they may be.
For those interested in a holistic, historical view of our planet, Anthropocene is a captivating and well-informed survey. The film focuses on what we know about the past rather than prescribing specific steps for the future, though it becomes clear what consequences we may eventually face. Anthropocene is recommended for anyone looking to understand not only the human impact on the Earth, but also its driving economic and sociopolitical forces. Viewers will also consider the anthropocene’s potential effects on international law, global economies, and even cultural norms.
As we view that iconic Earth-rise from 1968, we see ourselves as a blip on the lifespan of the solar system, an imperceptible dot in the universe. Our planet and its resources are not unlimited, as they once may have seemed. The film challenges us to consider our home planet from afar, removed from any specific point in time. And yet, the story feels essentially and necessarily human. As a species, we have come to what the film’s geologists call a “mirror moment,” a pivotal point when we must decide to change or to continue on our reckless way. The geologists depict a coming-of-age story—we’ve partied our teenage years away, now we must clean up our mess and mature into adulthood.
The story is not over. The film invites us to reflect on our own role in the Earth’s future. Only we can answer the question: what is a “good” Anthropocene? How will we adapt to this new epoch, or how will we steer into a new one? We clearly have the power, but will we have the wisdom? For those interested in discovering these answers, Anthropocene is an illustrative starting point.
Initial release date: November 7, 2015
Director: Steve Bradshaw
Producer: Jenny Richards
Editor: Sotira Kyriacou
Music: Audio Network
For more information or to view the film, visit the OVID.tv page for ANTHROPOCENE
Images courtesy of Anthropocene
About the Author:
Isabella Sturgis is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in Psychology and Creative Writing. A lifelong fan of the arts—from film to ballet to literature—Isabella is continuously searching for her next favorite piece or production. She hopes to pursue a career in public relations, journalism, or publishing and, if she’s lucky, even publish a book of her own. In her free time, you can find her reading David Sedaris or listening to the Cats soundtrack.