Using the awesome power of their machinery, mankind moves several billion tonnes of earth annually. It does so in an effort to mold their surrounds to fit their own needs. By observing people in mines, quarries and large construction sites, the new documentary Earth showcases the battle for dominance. One over the natural realm and man’s desire to assert their power in an effort to change the world.
Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Earth (or Erde) is an unflinching look at man’s arrogance. It also looks at the disrespect for the planet in the name of progress. Featuring primarily long takes of machinery demolishing the beauty of creation, the film forces itself on to the viewer . Teams of construction workers around the world bulldoze through whatever natural landscape stands in their way. Somewhat ironically, as a parent, I’ve seen many videos about ‘big machines’ with my young children. And the perspective has always been to focus on the awesome power of technology. Earth uses footage that it could have plucked from such kid-friendly videos. But itrefuses to celebrate the machinery, opting instead to mourn the sheer audacity of man’s desire to destroy.
What’s more, Earth travels around the world to a number of prominent development sites. Earth demonstrates that the problem is a global issue as opposed to a local phenomenon. It captures the mines of Austria/Italy to the already heavily developed areas of California. It thus shows man’s intent to dominate nature in an effort to create space for himself becomes a common theme. There are those that seem somewhat aware of the consequences of their actions.
But most interviews with construction workers and staff demonstrate something damning. They show a complete lack of interest in finding a balance between progress and nature. For these men and women, development is the natural order of things in order to support human life. That’s regardless of the potential environmental fallout. (In fact, in one particularly revealing instance, a worker talks about the ‘adrenaline rush’ of bull-dozing through a mountainside. He claims that it’s what makes him excited to get up in the morning.)
Earth does recognize the importance of proper housing and utilities. But it quietly and emphatically points to how humans take little care to explore alternative ways to do so. Though the production team uses little dialogue, Earth speaks volumes about humanity’s tendencies. They think only of their own wants and needs at the expense of their natural surroundings. Mankind is willing to roll over the beauty of creation (literally) in support of their own wants and needs. They continue to demonstrate their hubris regarding their role in the larger ecosystem of the planet. With this in mind though, Earth serves as a reminder. In focusing on its wants, mankind also runs a certain risk. It risks destroying the very planet that sustains them in the first place.