If lockdown has given us anything – it’s time. And we’ve used this time to catch up on climate-change documentaries, becoming more knowledgeable about what’s actually going on. Our first awareness came through Cowspiracy, and now it’s time for the ocean’s bounty to be thrown into the limelight through Seaspiracy.
There are plenty of documentaries to keep you thinking about the choices you’ve made. We’ve listed our top 10 climate-change documentaries that will make you think twice about how you interact with the planet, and what you eat.
This doccie is the latest to cause a stir – it has fishing companies up in arms, eco-warrior groups irate at how they are portrayed, and it has even caused scientists, who stand to benefit from this message being spread, to question the methods used to tell the story. It is arguably one of the most polarizing environmental documentaries of the year. It focuses on the challenges facing the world’s oceans. The film delves into ways in which the commercial fishing industry is destroying the ocean and it also touches on how fishing nets are polluting the ocean.
Whether you eat seafood or not, this documentary will make you question your choices for sure.
This was the first documentary we watched about the mass food production industry and the impact of livestock farming on the environment. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change. It’s a major contributor to deforestation, water consumption, resource depletion, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Our family includes two vegans, one pescatarian (although after Seaspiracy this may change) and one meat eater. This documentary re-affirmed our choices, and made the meat-eater question his. This is a hard-hitting documentary that sheds a lot of light on what it takes to get meat to the table.
A Plastic Ocean
This story is told beautifully – and although it’s sad to see the state of the ocean caused by plastic pollution, it does help us understand why our ocean is in this state. The 2016 film documents the impact of waste plastics on the marine environment. The documentary features the scientific analysis of ocean gyres—the large systems of circulating currents—where much of the plastic in the water ends up. A harsh reality is that the centre of the Pacific Ocean contains more plastic than plankton!
Read more: Plastics in our daily routine
Chasing Coral was our first glimpse into the visible change that increasing temperatures, caused by climate change, is having on our coral reefs. The 2017 Netflix Original documentary follows a team of divers, photographers, and scientists as they explore and document disappearing coral reefs. Production took over three years and featured more than 500 hours of underwater footage from 30 countries.
Read more: Saving coral – a marine biologists story
I am Greta
The biographical documentary about teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg began streaming on Hulu in 2020. From her first one-person climate strike in 2018 to her global movement, the film allows viewers to see previously unseen footage from Thunberg’s climate activism efforts.
Read more: Greta Thunberg Sails Across The Atlantic
Before the Flood
From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens and Academy Award®-winning actor, environmental activist and U.N. Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio, Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power. “We need everyone to demand bold action from their political leaders and to elect representatives who have their best interests at heart, not the interests of corporations to perpetuate a cycle of greed and destruction,” says DiCaprio. “This documentary shows how interconnected the fate of all humanity is — but also the power we all possess as individuals to build a better future for our planet.”
Kiss the Ground
This Netflix documentary is narrated by Woody Harrelson, and motivates viewers to tackle climate change through awareness of maintaining our soils. Best farming practices are shared which allow soils to keep producing good, quality food. The actor says in the trailer,“the solution is right under our feet and it’s as old as dirt.”
Food Inc. (2008) focuses on the industrial production of food, highlighting the lack of sustainability and its impact on the environment. The first part of the film focuses on animal agriculture and factory farming, which is a significant contributor to climate change, in addition to pollution and environmental destruction.
The second half of the film highlights the industrial production of plant foods such as grains and vegetables, which the film argues is also unsustainable. In the third section of the film, the food industry at large is examined, including labeling regulations, economic factors, and the industry’s effect on American consumer health.
A life on Our Planet
Our Planet (2019) documentary series was produced for Netflix, and features national historian and presenter David Attenborough. Who else could grab our attention through story-telling and hard-hitting truths? He compares the earth through the decades that he has been involved in natural history and presenting. And the comparisons are scary! Although the predictions of the earth’s future are hard to watch, it is necessary to tell this story so that we can effect real change now.
The show focuses on global conservation. It received praise for its increased emphasis on human-caused climate change and its impact on the changing natural world. It also addresses mass-species extinction and environmental degradation.
The Magnitude of All Things
When Jennifer Abbott lost her sister to cancer, her sorrow opened her up to the profound gravity of climate breakdown. Abbott’s new documentary The Magnitude of All Things draws intimate parallels between the experiences of grief—both personal and planetary. Stories from the frontlines of climate change merge with recollections from the filmmaker’s childhood on Ontario’s Georgian Bay.
What do these stories have in common? The answer, surprisingly, is everything. For the people featured, climate change is not happening in the distant future: it is kicking down the front door. Battles waged, lamentations of loss, and raw testimony coalesce into an extraordinary tapestry, woven together with raw emotion and staggering beauty that transform darkness into light, grief into action.