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34409 005Images of a humpback whale are projected onto the facade of the Empire State Building / Image: Oceanic Preservation Society

New Documentary: Racing Extinction

The new environmental documentary Racing Extinction explores how humans are driving species to extinction on a massive scale

After exposing Japan’s cruel dolphin hunts in The Cove, Louie Psihoyos is back with a new documentary which tackles a more global issue: the daunting sixth mass extinction of species.

Estimates suggest that species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than is natural due to mankind’s devastating impact on the planet.

When Psihoyos researched the facts of the extinction event, he felt compelled to use his skills as a filmmaker to bring broad attention to what could be the biggest environmental catastrophe since the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

‘I run the Oceanic Preservation Society. How could I know this and not do anything about it?’ Psihoyos asks.

‘What I’m trying to do is shout at the absolute top of my lungs in the most creative way I know how so that people will listen. We’re all stakeholder in this,’ the filmmaker told DIVE.

In many ways, Racing Extinction picks up right where The Cove left off and also uses the same guerrilla filmmaking techniques as Psihoyos’ previous film.

The same week the team visits Los Angeles to collect an Academy Award, Psihoyos’ team conducts an undercover investigation of a restaurant in Santa Monica which sells whale meat illegally.

From there, the ‘eco-thriller’ team of global activists, including Louie Psihoyos himself, Shawn Heinrichs and Paul Hilton, are equipped with hidden body cameras, fake IDs and dioxide-detection sensors expose a world of wildlife poaching and pollution.

34409 006Seized wildlife parts end up in the National Wildlife Property Repository in Denver / Image: Ethan Johnson/Oceanic Preservation Society

While Racing Extinction generally draws a bleak picture of the future, Psihoyos strives to convey a message of hope, the biggest challenge of making the film, he says.

A look around ‘the Walmart of the endangered-species trade’ is followed-up with a trip to Lamakera, a fishing village in central Indonesia which successfully banned manta ray hunting, before the film’s message accumulates in the call for the start of a movement.

Large-scale projections of the world’s endangered species lit up New York City’s skyline in August this year which drew a great amount of attention to the film. Psihoyos hopes that his enthusiasm catches on and the movement gains momentum after the 2 December release.

There’s many ways in which individuals can play a part and many reasons to do it, Psihoyos says, whether that’s by opting for renewable energy, an electric car or a plant-based diet.

‘If you’re a diver there’s no more important issue in the world for your recreation than trying to solve this issue, because all coral reefs will be in a state of dissolve by 2050. By 2100 they will be gone,’ he says. ‘You can have all the hope spots in the world but if we don’t solve the carbon problem it’s game over for what we like to do.

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