The name “Anthropocene” describes the existing geological time period that we are living in – a time period that is defined by human influence on the Earth. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky, 2018) is an extremely powerful film that I would encourage everyone to see. It is a film that was created with a little help from all of us, as we are all guilty of contributing to the ongoing destruction of our Earth. Despite our knowledge, humans continue to destroy the Earth’s surface to answer unnecessary human desires, for the pleasure of aesthetics, and to satisfy our cravings for easy living. Not only are we letting greed fuel our intentions, but we are allowing greed to take over in ways that aren’t sustainable. We take more than we need, and, in the process, we ruin the Earth’s natural landscape and human history. In summary, it is beyond painful to watch our human history and Earth being ripped into pieces. To revisit what I viewed in Anthropocene seems so daunting because this film depicts my greatest fears of what humans continue to do to our one and only Earth. It brings each viewer out of their comfortable world of denial, and into the reality of what we will face for the rest of our time on this planet: trying to repair the destruction of our behaviours. I am so grateful that I saw this film as it truly rocked my world in a very literal and not totally pleasing way.
In this film, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Ed Burtynsky follow up their world-renowned work in Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and The Watermark (2013). Without lecturing, they delve into the issue with sweeping overhead shots and piercing sounds to display how we are all equal contributors to our global problem. In each scene, and each location Anthropocene visibly caught viewers’ attention in the theatre, focusing on both visuals and sound to shock the audience. At first glance, an audience can immediately see photographer Ed Burtynsky’s mark on this film. He has a very distinct view and relationship with landscapes which helps viewers to value the world as art that is worth saving. Along with true Burtynsky visuals, sound plays a leading role in this film as the piercing noises of breaking, burning and ripping of natural resources give these silent species a voice to communicate pain and loss to the audience. One scene that especially stood out to me was at a marble quarry in Italy where we see extremely ancient marble being ripped in half. The visuals of the massive pieces of stone, the sounds of marble being torn apart, and the operatic track that accompanied it left me in tears in the theatre during this scene. Anthropocene is a film you walk away from feeling affected and frustrated. It is not an easy film, and there is no escapism. It depicts the most beautiful and fascinating aspects of nature being destroyed.
We violently destroy nature with chemicals and machinery so that we can build consumer goods that appeal to us for short-term pleasure. But, when thinking of our future, our obsession with technology and unsustainable ways of extraction will not be beneficial to anyone as there will be no more Earth for us to live on. I am of the belief that humans were not placed on the Earth to extract all of its resources and make deep impacts into the landscape that we can never bounce back from. Humans have the privilege of existing on Earth and have the ability to exist harmoniously; however, we seem to be stuck in a pattern of greed and dependency on unsustainable ways of living. A rapid change in this pattern is our only hope for a future for ourselves, our legacy and our Earth. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is the call to action our Earth was craving, and now that the footage is here, the world needs to see it.