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Eating Our Way to Extinction



by Alberto Sclaverano for Citiplat


This ambitious documentary shows the connections between the climate crisis and meat production


The 2021 documentary Eating Our Way to Extinction has a lot more to offer than simply advocating for people to try a plant-based diet, although it never hid this aspect. Directed by independent filmmakers Ludo Brockway and Otto Brockway, and narrated by Oscar winner actress Kate Winslet, a long-time environmentalist, the movie was very popular among climate change experts and animal activists and found success in independent festivals dedicated to films that address social issues. It won the 2022 Environmental Media Award for the best documentary film and the 2022 International Green Film Award at the Cinema for Peace Awards and was later made available for free on the Internet in several countries.


It used a style reminiscent of documentaries like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, thus exploiting graphics, tables, and images to make its message resonate with the general public. But this time it never becomes a one-man show. Instead, it aims to combine interviews and opinions from several different people, including experts, activists, and scientists concerned with the reduction in biodiversity, using Mrs. Winslet’s voice as the connection point of the whole discourse.


The thesis presented in the movie is that the current level of meat production and consumption, especially among highly developed societies like the Western ones, risks being unstainable for the Earth’s ecosystem and equilibrium.


The reason can be found in the abnormal use of resources that are required for intensive farming. For example, the level of water consumption (and pollution) is incredibly high if compared to other similar human activities. There is also serious concern related to the deterioration of the soil. “Animal agriculture”, as it is today called the sector of agriculture that deals with animals raised for meat, has become a large-scale, global, industry-like system whose consumption in terms of resources is frightening.


There is a dark side to this system: the increase in meat demand in the rich world is related to the spread of poverty and hunger in the global South, where the destruction of forests to create lands for animal agriculture has led to a worsening of local people’s living conditions. It is a negative circle, that leads to poverty and suffering in the poorest part of the world, and so one of the many examples of globalization’s dark shades, much like the economic model enlightened in Hubert Sauper’s 2004 Darwin's Nightmare, a documentary that shows some similarities with Eating Our Way to Extinction.


Animal agriculture according to the movie is changing the world more than any other human activity, because it is the main responsible for massive deforestation. The necessity of increasing the soil destined for animal agriculture has led to the brutal expropriation of lands from indigenous tribes in South America, often made possible through the use of mercenaries paid by big companies and tolerated by right-wing governments.


Of course, the reduction of the global forests implicates the rise in CO2 level in the atmosphere, and so ends up being one of the main causes of the ongoing climate crisis.


Other negative aspects of large meat production touched by the film include the degradation of the Oceans, overfishing and pollution of waters by industrial and fishery wastes, all of them threatening biodiversity and the Oceans’ ecosystem.


Eating Our Way to Extinction wants to denounce the dangers related to meat and fish mass consumption, but also to present a simple solution that everyone can adopt: one of the easiest ways to fight climate change is to modify our diet, eliminating or simply reducing the quantity of meat and meat-related products we consume per month. Especially among people who live in the developed world, this can be a really small sacrifice, and even have positive outcomes for our health.


You may also want to read: The Forest Eaters, Rachel Nolan

In 2017, the Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum moved from São Paulo to a small city in the Amazon. Her new book vividly uncovers how the rainforest is illegally seized and destroyed.

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