From Racing Extinction to Conscious, Informed Decisions about the Oceans
Dr. Christopher W. Clark, Planet OS’s Chief Marine Scientist, who is a world renown bioacoustician and marine mammal expert, talks about his experience of being a part of Louie Psihoyos‘ eyeopening documentary Racing Extinction, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival at the end of January.
Last weekend, as a member of the cast, I participated in the premier of the feature documentary Racing Extinction at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film, directed by Louie Psihoyos (director of the 2009 Oscar award winning Best Documentary, “The Cove”), is about the sixth great extinction event as a result of modern human activities during the present epoch referred to as the Anthropocene.
Racing Extinction tells stories of consequences, cost and benefits, loss and hope. Psihoyos assembles a team of artists and activists intent on showing the world never-before-seen images that expose issues of endangered species and mass extinction. Whether infiltrating notorious black markets or exploring humans’ effect on the environment, Racing Extinction will change the way you see the world.
Racing Extinction puts our humanity’s actions elegantly and painfully in front of us: when is our single-minded, unlimited and unbalanced use of resources going to end?
My role in Racing Extinction evolved over the span of 3 years, but has always focused on telling the story about the magnificence of life on this amazing earth. It’s a story about this planet where life’s songs are everywhere, from the North Pole to the South Pole, in the deepest jungles of Central Africa to the deepest oceans; from the tiniest insects to largest whales. When you listen, there is song everywhere, and song is an essential part of life. It is part of our innermost being.
When I first me Louie Psihoyos in New York City in the winter of 2010 it was to introduce my dear friend Dieter Paulmann to Louie, but I had the chance to tell Louie the story about this singing planet. I told him about how all of man’s collective activities are drowning the songs of life under a dense smog of noise. How the collective noises from commercial shipping and the incessant pounding from offshore seismic exploration airguns are bleaching the ocean to such an extent that whales, dolphins, and fishes have lost most of their opportunities to hear each other; that the blue whale’s world of ocean-scale communication is collapsing under the weight of human actions. This is all another part of the sad reality of the Anthropocene.
Racing Extinction is not just about telling the stories about the consequences of climate change, ocean acidification, over fishing and dying voices. It’s also about stories of hope, about what is being done and can be done to change this downward trajectory. Awareness is happening, and denial is diminishing. It starts with each of us: our daily actions, from small to large. Those combine and combine again and again. I know I am a small part of life’s network, and that I have a responsibility to totally support that network of life. Within Racing Extinction one of my roles is to remind everyone that the songs of life are only as rich as the number of voices in the chorus
The film received standing ovations amidst tears of sadness and joy. The movie focuses on both specific and global examples of human impacts, while offering positive examples of hope and actions by which individually and collectively we can all make a difference. This era we live in, where we overexploit the meaning of “human rights” by over-consuming what we actually need, needs to be stopped by ourselves before nature and warfare makes its own corrections.
Seeing is believing. Especially in areas which are otherwise obscure to the human eye. One of these areas is the marine acoustic system, where I’ve worked for over 30 years, primarily running the Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University’s Lab or Ornithology. Every sound you make in the ocean travels 4 times faster than in the air. Given that the ocean is one shared, closed-loop environment, generating any man-made noise in the wrong place at a wrong time can have serious risks for all those animals that depend on a naturally quiet ocean for survival. Modern software technology can help us empirically estimate those risks in real-life situations.
The Planet OS team is a living example of a company dedicated to contributing to a healthy, living planet through the creative application of advanced technologies. We also provide powerful tools to access global environmental information to enable knowledge-based decisions. Planet OS is about making a difference through actions that turn ideas into realities and realities into a hopeful future for all of us. This is why I am proud to say that I am also part of the Planet OS team.