A Must See: The Human Footprint

Last night, we were fortunate enough to be invited to a premier screening of the National Geographic Channel's newest film, The Human Footprint, at the National Geographic Society's headquarters here in Washington, DC.

To give you a quick backgrounder on the film, it was a cooperative project between the Wildlife Conservation Society and the National Geographic Society. The goal of the project was to create a film that, without judgment, showed the American viewer just how much food, fuel, appliances, natural resources, etc. they consume in one lifetime. The best part of the film is that they accomplish this goal through stunning visuals, like an entire front yard covered in the 12, 129 hamburger buns an average American will consume in their life.

Elizabeth Vargas, co-host of ABC's 20/20, is the guide in the film. She describes the incredible statistics and visuals by beginning with an average American baby and following that child through their lifetime. We start by seeing the huge pile of 3,796 diapers used by an American baby in their first few years, then Elizabeth reveals the many liters of petroleum, pounds of plastic and tree trunks necessary to manufacture those diapers.

By the time the film is over, we've seen 12,888 oranges, 5,054 newspapers, and much much more. The Producers of the film go into incredible detail to visually reveal the enormous volume of goods, from around the world, that go into the life of an American. At one point, Elizabeth Vargas is standing on a map of the world with the pieces of an average Ford vehicle laid atop the country where the piece is manufactured. The sheer number of nations involved in manufacturing a Ford vehicle is impressive.

Two things struck me while I was watching the film:

First, the images on the screen merely showed a single American's consumption habits. Multiplied by 300 million people, its amazing we're not all swimming in a sea of garbage and pollution. At one point, the film points out that if all people, all over the world, consumed as many natural resources as Americans, we would need four planet earths to sustain.

Second, the threat to natural untouched places, many thousands of miles away, because of our desire for the newest technologies and material goods. The film describes a beautiful, wild place in Africa where animals are able to roam freely and tribal villages co-exist peacefully. In this place is a key metallic element that nearly every cell phone requires for operation. The race to mine this element to supply America's growing demand for it has disrupted the ecosystem and invited violence among locals competing for the great wealth available.

I think the message to take away from the film is not that we should all be ashamed of ourselves, but that we should all be aware of our impact on the planet. Everything is so convenient now that we overlook how much goes into our cozy, comfortable lives. Cutting back just a little bit and remembering to recycle, reuse, and conserve can make a huge difference. Just think, if we all recycled our cell phones, that beautiful part of Africa where animals once roamed freely can return to its former self.

The film, The Human Footprint, will air on the National Geographic Channel this Sunday at 9:00pm (EST).

To learn more about it, visit the website HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post!