CHENNAI: It is no longer a secret that the Earth is under tremendous pressure from the hundreds of thousands of humans who have been plundering it for centuries. Animals have been poached for their body parts, and forests are being plundered for wood, transforming lush greenery into ugly patches of brown.
All these activities contribute in one way or another to climate change, and glaciers have begun to melt, generating higher temperatures and changing weather patterns in a frightening way.
Netflix’s original 75-minute documentary, “Breaking Boundaries: The Science of our Planet,” directed by Jonathan Clay and powerfully narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, sounds a warning note that is loud enough for action, and is notably ambitious in its attempt to educate the average viewer on what is happening in the world around them.
The documentary features Johan Rockstrom, a renowned environmental scientist from Sweden. He does not mince words when he tells us that if humans continue to be callous toward our Earth, life on the planet could become unsustainable. Rockstrom explains it all through the prism of nine natural processes upon which all life on Earth depends, and the limits within each that cannot be exceeded without endangering humanity. He then goes on to explain how we are pushing those limits every day in unflinching detail.
Much of the runtime has been devoted to the dark and the depressing. For example, Greenland has been losing 10,000 cubic meters of ice every second, leading to the Earth getting hotter and hotter, and Prof. Terry Hughes laments the bleaching of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which Attenborough describes as a “coral graveyard.”
The film talks about disappearing insects, reptiles and animals, and it shows how desperate some among us are to save this planet. For example, the documentary highlights a dispute that occurred after British scientists captured hundreds of short-haired bumblebee queens — used for pollinating food crops — from Sweden in the 1990s after they became extinct in the UK.
In fact, the emotional testimony from the world’s leading scientists is compelling, sometimes more so than the dramatic graphics showing Earth in flames or shattering like glass — although both elements work to emphasize the sense of urgency.
Despite the desperate situation we find ourselves in, there is still a sliver of hope, the documentary says, pointing the finger at the world’s political leaders who have the power to reduce the negative effects of mass industrialization.
The commentary was so engaging and such an eye-opener that my attention hardly ever veered toward the imagery, which was of course magnificent.
Photography by Adam Lincoln in the documentary is simply breathtaking, and the images of lush rainforests as well as white icy expanses and underwater creatures manage to take us away from the darkness of the subject. And despite a large part of the film being commentary, one did not find the work lagged at all, packed as it is with so much information.