Scratching Boundaries

Our last post addressed Netflix’s documentary film Seaspiracy, a film that made a lot of fuss. The following post also addresses a recent Netflix environmental documentary film, but in its case, there was no fuss, and exactly for the same reasons that Seaspiracy did make many people angry. As opposed to Seaspiracy who “dared” to demanded people to take seriously the issue at the center of the film and simply stop eating fishes, Breaking Boundaries didn’t make people angry, because it doesn’t make any equivalent demands such as asking people to stop consuming animals, despite that such a film most certainly should have.

Basically, the film follows the scientist Johan Rockstrom who developed and studies the concept of Planetary Boundaries. These are earth systems and features which are essential for the planet’s functioning. There are nine planetary boundaries according Rockstrom and they are: Climate change, Biodiversity, Ocean Acidification, The Ozone Layer, Air Pollution, The Nitrogen and Phosphorus cycles, Freshwater, Land-system changes, and Novel Entities (human-made pollutants).
Except for the ozone layer depletion, which only indirectly relates to animal based food, all the rest are directly and heavily affected by animal industrial exploitation. And yet, animal based food plays an extremely marginal part in the film. So tiny, it can barely be noticed, partly because the word veganism (or even vegetarianism) isn’t even mentioned. Instead the viewers are advised to choose ‘healthy food’. Hopefully, the filmmakers at least had veganism in mind when they recommended healthy food. But unfortunately it wasn’t explicitly recommended.

What is suggested as a very effective way to draw down the carbon that is already overheating the planet is that people would plant trees.
Every person on earth, in every single meal, devastatingly affects the planet, and yet they are all offered to plant trees.

The issue of food received exactly 55 seconds in the film.
And that’s the entire reference:

“There’s another transformation that is almost unbelievably simple, but it’s key to staying within our planet’s boundaries. It can be adopted by you or me. In fact, by anyone with the freedom to choose what food they eat.

Now, the exciting thing is the diet that is more flexitarian, less red meat, more plant-based protein, more fruit and nuts, less starchy foods, if you take that diet and assume that all people would eat healthy food, we could actually come back within a safe operating space, not only on climate, but also on biodiversity, on land, on water, on nitrogen and phosphorus.

Quite exciting that eating healthy food might be the single most important way of contributing to save the planet.” (01:04:47-01:05:41)

Less than one minute for one of the two most important things that a single person can do. And even that minute, cowardly suggested ‘healthy food’ instead of simply and plainly saying – you should all go vegan now!
The other thing is breeding. And that issue gets exactly zero seconds in the film.

Since we have addressed the tremendous impact of the animal based food industry on climate change in past texts, most notably here, and since this fact is already well known to every animal activist, we will not repeat it here. The animal based food industry without a doubt plays probably the biggest part in climate change. Even if some keep insisting that it is “only” the second largest contributor, it still surely doesn’t receive even a remotely proportional attention.

Breaking Boundaries may have made some laypeople who are not activists worried, but it should make activists very very angry.

Breaking Environmentalists Boundaries

Animal rights activists are unfortunately already used to the animal based food industry being pushed aside, or barely mentioned (like in the case of Breaking Boundaries) in environmental films. But in this particular film, so many facts, details, perspectives, detections, pieces of information, informational linkages and etc., should have led environmentalist activists especially, to one unequivocal conclusion – the human race has got to go. And still they don’t.

Here are some examples (taken from the film in chronological order):

You could think of yourself driving in a mountainous area with the road circling up the mountain. An overpowered engine driving much, much too fast, driving without any headlights. Cliffs that you’re at risk of falling over. You want, of course, to turn on the headlights, and that is what science tries to do all the time. To give us the headlights so we can see what risks we’re facing. (00:00:32)

This metaphor, made by Rockstrom at the beginning of the film, is problematic. The problems in the world are not that it is dark and so needs some headlights, but that it is darkened deliberately and intentionally. It is wrong to describe humanity as if it drives in the dark and as if it supposedly waited for someone to turn on the headlights, since these are turned on for decades now, only that the vast majority of humans keep turning them off. Some purposely, and most simply indifferently.
There is a headlight the size of the sun that unambiguously illuminates the origin of the problem. Only that almost no one, including scientists, wish to observe it. The origin of the problem is not climate change, or any other of the nine boundaries, but whom who insist on breaking them, and no matter the price they themselves are paying for it, not to mention the rest of the sentient beings on this planet.

Recent discoveries made by scientists studying the ways in which our planet works are surely of the greatest importance for all of us. Their insights are deeply troubling. Nonetheless, they also give us hope, because they show us how we can fix things. (00:00:47)

That is true provided that scientists would at some point be listened to, and that the most relevant and efficient recommendations (veganism and not to breed) would be suggested. Currently neither is happening. Many humans are still doubting scientists, and not the good healthy kind of skepticism but one with no foundation whatsoever. And scientists are offering recommendations according to what they think humans are more likely to do, and not according to what surly must be done.

An example illustrating this approach is the following statement:

This is not about the planet. This is about us. It is about our future. (00:01:43)

This anthropocentric and speciesist claim is probably a reflection of the notion that humans would relate to the issue more if they are told that it is about them. But it is not about them. It is first and foremost about what they have done to others. Humans should highly relate to this issue because they are responsible for it, not because they might be harmed by it as well.

We still have a chance. The window is still open for us to have a future for humanity. That I think is the beauty of where we are today. (00:01:54)

It may seem to some of you a little bit nitpicky, yet to say about where we are today that there is a beauty in it, is deeply detached. There is no beauty in where we are now. Or ever been. Even if the terminology about still having a chance was true, that is not beauty. It wouldn’t even be fixing anything, but at most just stop breaking more and more.

Our understanding of how our planet works is always advancing. We can now see more clearly than ever how life’s intricate complexity is essential for our own survival. (00:02:10)

Yet all the advancing in understanding of how this planet works didn’t help humans reach the inevitable conclusion. Humans still don’t see clearly that the source of the problem is whom who have created all these atrocities in the first place and that should have long ago lost its right to be here. To keep insisting on saving the human race is to see things as unclearly as possible. Why must everyone suffer for it to keep existing?

The exponential rise in human pressures on planet Earth has now reached a stage where we have now created our own geological epoch.
Scientists recently declared that the Holocene has ended and that we are now in the Anthropocene, the age of humans, because we now are the primary drivers of change on planet Earth.

How much more exponential rise in human pressures on planet Earth is needed for them to understand?

I would say that perhaps the most dire message to humanity is the following: So we have, in just 50 years, managed to push ourselves outside of a state that we’ve been in for the past 10,000 years. Are we at risk of destabilizing the whole planet? It’s just a mind-boggling situation to be in. For the first time, we have to seriously consider the risk of destabilizing the entire planet. (00:06:14)

This statement is supposed to make humans, or at least environmentalist activists, realize that the human race shouldn’t be saved. A species with such a devastating potential must not be granted with endless chances to change its harmful behavior.
There is no species that could even come near the level of harm caused by the human race.

With global temperatures now warmer than they’ve been since the dawn of civilization, there is a danger that we have already crossed the boundary in Earth’s climate. (00:08:23)

And billions upon billions of sentient beings are paying for the decisions humans are making. And it is not that humans are simply making mistakes, this is not done unwittingly, these are decisions, carless and cruel decisions. The facts presented in the film are known long enough for the human race to solve them. Rapidly. And yet…

We’re starting to see the impacts of being in the middle of the danger zone in the climate boundary in terms of rising frequency of droughts, and heatwaves, and floods, and accelerated melting of ice, and accelerated thawing of permafrost, and higher frequency of forest fires. (00:17:37)

Not only that all of that is about to continue, it is going to intensify. And as it is in the face of any other atrocity, the “world” is loudly silent. The rational thing to do once the human race had figured out the dire consequences of burning fossil fuels, is to simply stop. Not to ignore it, because ‘it seems that it doesn’t concern me or my children’. Not to reduce it a little bit because from a certain point ‘it seems that it does concern at least my children or their children’, but to simply stop.

Today, our assessment is that the uncertainty range in science lies between 350 PPM, which is the boundary between the safe zone and entering the danger zone, up to 450 PPM, which is when you exit the danger zone and go into a really high-risk zone. (00:18:11)

A great moral responsibility lays on the human race and it is to stop way before 450 PPM. This great moral responsibility is first and foremost for the rest of the species living on this planet, and towards future generations of humans. However, given the history of the human race, the best way they can fulfil their moral obligation is by not having future generations.

Humans have created 100,000 new materials, any number of which could interact with the environment in catastrophic ways. (00:42:33)

How is it that in spite of all the insane information presented in this film there are so few environmentalist initiatives calling for human extinction?

We can see so clear evidence that, because we’re in the danger zone on climate, because we’re in the deep high-risk zone on biodiversity loss, we start seeing increased drought, impacts on the rain forest, the forest fires in Australia and in the Amazon, the accelerated ice melt, the collapse of coral reef systems. (00:47:26)

Up until a few years ago, many have said that the human race doesn’t take environmental issues, particularly climate change, seriously, because no matter how scientifically based it is, it is a predication, a warning about bad things that will happen in the future. But in recent years, many immediate and direct effects have already happened. So how are they going to excuse humans now? When will excusing the human race ever stop?

Now that Johan and his colleagues have turned on the headlights, we can clearly see the boundaries. We can see the path back to a safe space, to a more resilient future. It is achievable. (00:59:48)

No it is not. The headlights are turned on for decades now.
Humans didn’t prove they can be trusted with fixing the problems they have caused, problems that everyone, everywhere are paying the price for. They don’t try to fix them even when the human race itself is in a clear and present danger.

The future’s not determined. The future is in our hands. (01:08:29)

With the aim of inspiring some hope, this statement is probably the most depressing one in the film. The fact that the future is in humans’ hands is terrifying. Humans’ hands are absolutely unreliable, so us activists must do everything we can to save “the future” from their dreadful grip.

And finally, Johan Rockstrom suggests a metaphor:

What would we do if we had had a report tomorrow morning saying that an asteroid is on its way to Earth?
Well, I’m sure that we would just put everything else aside and just focus then on solving the problem. Cost whatever cost it takes.

Again Rockstrom’s metaphor is wrong. In his view, the asteroid serves as an analogy for climate change, but for every individual from any species other than humans, the asteroid is the human race. Only that unfortunately, they can’t overthrow humans from their tyrannical throne. This is our job.

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