The Age of the Anthropocene. It’s already here, and with it, warnings that in just a few hundred years mankind has already brought the Earth to the brink of what is now being called its 6th “mass extinction”.
Reminding us of this chilling reality, last night, the Discovery Channel premiered Louis Psihoyos’ latest documentary, Racing Extinction. Together with film makers, photojournalists, Tesla, and race car driver, Leilani Münter, the Racing Extinction team traveled to places like Indonesia, UN Headquarters and China to show us the impact of our decisions as humans. From our diet, to how we power our homes, transport ourselves, and endanger species in our oceans, a more conscious call to our lifestyles (and livelihoods) is needed.
The Call for Our Oceans
In the film, one of the stories that really resonated with me was the hunting of Manta rays in Lamakera, Indonesia. As an undergrad, I spent a summer just north of this area working with an NGO on marine conservation in the Wakatobi National Park. A few years later, a fellow diver that worked with us that summer (now with the Misool Manta Project), began sharing photos of villagers engaged in the large-scale fishing of manta rays; it was a trade I never realized the extent of – till then.
As the film shows, mantas are being de-gilled and exported for their medicinal use in China despite the uncertain medical viability of this practice. As a result, manta populations are now in drastic decline far faster than they can replace themselves. Surrounded by concerns from local villagers about how else to make a living, the need to educate and demonstrate the value of a species is key. With alternatives like eco-tourism and encouraging fishermen and youth to become guides or divemasters, a new future (and economy) can be envisioned – one that reconsiders our role in an ecosystem far larger than ourselves.