Stunning portrayal of a global train wreck

Oh my goodness! Alon told me I should see this, in a comment to yesterday’s post, and yes indeed, I should have, and so should you. Watch it now. I’m not even going to attempt to describe it, you’ve got to watch it. Now!

(If it won’t stream smoothly, get a YouTube downloader and watch it from your hard drive (I used the downloader built into Speedbit’s DAP). It’s an 800MB download and then it requires a further 90 minutes to blow your mind.)

When you’ve watched it, make sure that everybody else on Earth watches it too.


About stevegrand
I'm an independent AI and artificial life researcher, interested in oodles and oodles of things but especially the brain. And chocolate. I like chocolate too.

15 Responses to Stunning portrayal of a global train wreck

  1. Pius Agius says:

    Hi Steve

    I just downloaded and skimmed through it. I will watch it after I tansfer to a DVD. Looks and sounds very powerful. Thanks for the heads up on this and I know this will head us in the right direction.

    Take care


  2. Sue and Bruce says:

    We just watched it – amazing and disturbing – and beautiful on widescreen direct download with no hassles.
    We’ve passed the link onto Christie who is getting quite well known as a blogger on blogspot: Observations of a Nerd. So she should see to its getting to lots of people.

  3. Alon says:

    Off-topic: Hey Steve, do you still plan on doing that TED talk you promised us you’d do this year (or in the near future)?
    I’ll understand if you don’t think you have anything special to talk about… but I still think it would be cool to watch.

    • Alon says:

      Oh, and umm, no pressure… xD

      • stevegrand says:

        🙂 Sorry, forgot to get back to you on this…

        Nothing to say yet, and nothing to show either, which is important for TED. You might need to give me another year – this one’s been a bit of a bad one so far and I have some catching up to do.


  4. Ian says:

    The photography is quite amazing, but it started to get a little too preachy for me about 5-10 minutes in. I appreciate the complexity and interdependence of life, but the moment people start talking about how nature is all about harmony and delicate balances my eyes started to glaze over. Nature isn’t even remotely harmonious outside of specific, symbiotic relationships. On the whole, nature is more of a tug of war than an orchestra, and one equilibrium gives way to another when a balance is upset.

    Perhaps my prejudice in this regard is causing me to miss out on a fantastic video, but less than five minutes in it started feeling like a propaganda piece to me. I presume from the content that I did see and your comment about a “stunning portrayal of a global train wreck” that this video procedes to go on about how humans are destructive influences on nature?

    I’m not saying we AREN’T, but the rhetoric around that fact can get pretty tiresome! We’ve got a huge, destabilizing influence on our environments, though I remain skeptical of placing a moral value on that destabilization. It’s a subject of concern that deserves investigation, certainly, but I find that environmentalism often devolves to “the earth has to stay exactly as it is/was!”

    • stevegrand says:

      Yes, that was exactly what I thought too, up to about half an hour in. It is preachy and the narrator’s pronunciation kept driving me nuts, especially as she insisted on pronouncing “climatic” as “climactic”! I kept thinking, “but who the hell doesn’t know all this by now?”

      And then I started to realise I didn’t actually know some of it either and it shocked me. And that’s when the stunning photography and the poetic moodiness started to get to me. Maybe I was just feeling emotional – I’m a bit vulnerable right now – but eventually I found it a powerful piece. I almost switched off after ten minutes too, but I’m glad I didn’t. It doesn’t really get to you until the end of the first hour.

      I share your irritation with endless do-goody environmentalism, and I agree that nature is a complex tug of war, not some cosy, hippie love fest. Unquestionably, therefore, one equilibrium gives way to another very different one and there are clearly several major attractors that the Earth has spent significant amounts of geological time in (just like normality, depression and schizophrenia are metastable states for the brain and psychological trauma can kick someone from normality into a pathological state from which is is hard to escape). Morals be damned, though, the point is surely that we seem to have made a major contribution to lifting the system from one temperate attractor basin to the rim of another which is probably deeply untenable for much of life, including our own. The movie suggested to me (speaking as a comparatively hard-nosed dynamicist) that we are hurtling faster than I realised over the brink of a shift in stability that could equal that at the end of the Permian.

      The thing I liked least about it was not actually the eco-freaky doom and gloom but the optimism at the end. The theme was “it’s too late for pessimism”, which is an interesting concept, but it managed to make it sound like we’re well on the way to putting things right and everything will be ok. I’ve a nasty feeling the system may already be beyond that point.

      Anyway, I still think people should watch it and I recommend sitting it out.

  5. Ian Morrison says:

    Ah, so I take it I should stick around and look at the pretty pictures for a bit before I write it off?

    • stevegrand says:

      Yeah, look at the pretty pictures for a bit and THEN write it off. 😉
      Actually I’m going to watch it again so that I can check out my new computer speakers check whether I was just being too emotional (I don’t trust myself lately).

      • stevegrand says:

        Ok, I’ve watched it again and I stand my my first assessment. Stunnning. Train wreck. I think the trick is to remember that the narrative isn’t aimed at you and me, it’s aimed at the majority of Westerners, who can’t tell you where their liver is or what it’s for, can’t tell you whether methane is a compound or an element and couldn’t even spell albedo, let alone define it. It’s especially aimed at the people of the country I now live in, who have not yet completely emerged from the Dark Ages of the reign of King George bush II and often don’t realize that his denial of global warming was a con. This is a country where it’s considered perfectly normal to leave all your house lights on 24 hours a day, and where in a hot climate like Louisiana you have to take a sweater when you go shopping because the air conditioning is too cold. They need to be shocked by some of the things that shocked me, like the fact that the mighty Colorado River (not far from where I am now) no longer reaches the sea. or that for every human being that was alive when I was born there are now almost three, or that 80% of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro have gone and it no longer looks a bit like it does on the postcards. I think the movie does that pretty well, once you make allowances for the sonorous narration and losses in translation. Unfortunately, it probably isn’t going to be seen in the cinemas where it needs to be, but still.

  6. Stephen says:

    Yeah, well, the Kilimanjaro thing for one is rubbish: the glaciers started disappearing in the 30’s due to local effects completely unrelated to GW. But that won’t stop the propagandists from trying to con the people you condescendingly describe. (Wouldn’t it be great if only you and your educated friends could vote!)

    • stevegrand says:

      Well then the imminent loss of all the other major glaciers around the world must be due to local effects too, huh? And all 243 pages of the latest report from the US Government is nonsense, and the thousands of scientific papers correlating greenhouse emissions with global temperatures and major environmental change – they must be propaganda as well.

      It makes no difference whether Kilimanjaro’s catastrophic losses are due in part to local people smoking out bees – it’s still an example of human influence on major climatic phenomena and will have important consequences for them and the rest of us.

      Thank you for your considered and thoughtful remarks. Is it any wonder I’m condescending when there are jerks like you around?

  7. You said: “the narrator’s pronunciation kept driving me nuts, especially as she insisted on pronouncing “climatic” as “climactic”!”

    This reminded me of a great teacher I once had. After receiving a batch of particularly excremental essays from our class, he delivered a 20-minute tour de force on the difference between the words “analyze” and “analize.” Sadly there were only a few people who laughed.

  8. I forgot to mention that Arthus-Bertrand produced a stunning coffee-table book many years ago. It is titled “Earth from above” and is a remarkable work.

    No, he is not giving me kickbacks!

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