Terra (2015) - full transcript

A visually stunning documentary that reflects human's relationship to other species on Earth as humanity becomes more and more isolated from Nature.

My story begins in a forest,

somewhere in Tanzania.

It is a place where humans do not live.

A wild world.

In these trees can be found

which are Old World monkeys.

At dawn, you can hear
male colobuses roar.

The noise marks their authority
over a territory.

Colobuses live in troops,

each in a part of the forest.

It is a way of living
that must be observed.

However, Colobus isn't a warrior.

It is generally peaceful,

and simply protects its family.

Living suspended between earth and sky
must give a different view of things.

Sometimes I think I could have been born
a colobus in a Tanzanian forest.

It would all have been different.

But contrary to expectations,
I wasn't born a monkey.

I was born human,

and Colobus's life changed dramatically.

It was a long time ago.

One day,
Colobus and his family had a shock.

Their forest had disappeared,

and in its place was a tea field.

He'd never seen such a thing.

The other thing
Colobus had never seen was me.

He'd never seen humans.

He was puzzled, or curious.

He watched me picking tea.

That cultivated field was mine.
It was my territory.

Colobus had not understood that,

so I captured him.

Colobus found himself
in another world, far from his forest.

He discovered
what civilization was.

I have found him something to do:
He entertains me.

That is all I can do with him.

Maybe, like lions and elephants,
he too will be

a hero of documentaries or ads.

He was chased off his land,
but I have a picture of him.

Millennia of civilization later,

the natural world still fascinates us.

As if Nature was still inside us,
in spite of progress.

Our fascination for the living world
is not new.

It goes back
to the very origins of humanity.

36,000 years ago, on cave walls,

prehistoric humans painted bisons, lions
and wild horses.

They were afraid of them,
and subject to Nature.

Now the roles are reversed.

The wild world is in human hands.

As civilization advances,
Nature has retreated.

Its existence is tolerated.

Wild animals have become
refugees on Earth.

They are hungry, thirsty and afraid.

They will soon have nowhere to go.

They disappear one by one

and are replaced by a tame population
that feeds

and serves.

One that is useful to humans.

Over 500 generations,
or barely 10,000 years,

nearly everything has been tamed.

Farming has changed
the face of the Earth.

Now it is the turn of genetics
and chemistry.

Four billion years' evolution
had formed life on Earth.

Progress, exhaustion, climate...

In just a few hundred years,
the human race has made drastic changes.

At this rate,
what will our world look like tomorrow?

There is still time to open our eyes
to our surroundings.

This is the story of a journey
to rebuild ties with our Earth.


It begins with a great leap in time,

to over two billion years ago.

The story has disappeared
but a sanctuary remains

hidden in the Amazon forest,

between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana.

It's a tepuy.

A sandstone plateau
washed by tropical rains,

one of Earth's most ancient
known rocky masses.

It is known as Roraima.

Roraima is no ordinary mountain,

it is a messenger from Time.

The story of life on Earth
is sheltered in this natural fortress

from mixed species, pollution...

and human beings.

As you approach Roraima,

you see the Earth's surface
as it originally was.

The ground is not fertile.

It's a realm of naked rocks,
washed by water and scoria

and rich in minerals.

It is hard to imagine life flourishing
in such a harsh world.

To understand, get nearer
and observe more closely.

On the plateau can be seen
a thin film of very ancient life.

It is lichen:

A dwarf organism
that is half-plant, half-fungus.

Lichen is a pioneer,

tough and tenacious.

It is self-sufficient,
needing no roots.

And it eats nothing but the carbon
that floats in the air.

With the carbon, sun and water,

lichen have made a mattress for life.

Inside the lichen,
bacteria are to be found.

They are the basic units of life,
the origin of everything.

They are minuscule.

They still produce all vital functions,

and contain all life's genetic codes.

They live in all environments
and in each body,

including my body.

At this stage in history,

they mostly colonized green algae
found in lichen.

The algae are real balls of energy.

They transform carbon using sunlight.

The particular thing about lichen
is what happened next.

The algae did not use the energy.

They gave it to a fungus

which fed the algae in exchange.

From that meeting
on a desolate land,

life sprang forth.

Fungi appeared very early on Earth,

yet they have been overlooked
in natural history.

Their realm is not that of
animals and plants.

They do not eat, they decompose matter.

They have no head or branches,

but a network of filaments
which can proliferate relentlessly,

and mutate, and change track.

They are called cladosporium
or penicillium,

and are essential
for organic decomposition,

antibiotics and ferments.

Their toughness is their strength.

With their supplies,
they can resist drought, breathe any gas,

live almost anywhere,
latch onto anything.

They don't move, but use the wind
to disperse their countless spores.

They are so light
that over the generations

they have come to conquer
the whole planet.

Bacteria, fungi, algae and lichen

gave birth to the Earth's soil,

its humus, its fertile compost.

These days, the soil contains
an infinite network of those tiny fungi.

We can't see them, but they are there,

living in symbiosis with plant roots.

Hidden solidarity beneath the earth

is at the root of a vast kingdom:

The plant kingdom.

Outside, life no longer crawls,
it is going upwards.

It is a race towards the light.

Any way of beating others
is good,

even using them
by winding around them.

There are 300,000 plants on Earth.

All give their leaves up to the sun.

The race creates a canopy,
a thick green roof,

and soon the sun
no longer reaches the ground.

So bromeliads and epiphytes

climb to the upper branches,

and enjoy rain and sun.

Plants charge up the trees,

filling them with life
like Towers of Babel.

A quarter of the world's biodiversity
is in primary forests.

In Amazonia,
16,000 different species of trees exist.

A cloud of life,
suspended more than 40 meters up,

pierced by tall trees

like clumsy giants,
whose roots fight to hold them straight.

Primary forest is a wonder of Nature.

The greenery uses carbon from the air

to make into trunks and leaves.

In return, it produces oxygen.

It's a miracle that began
350 million years ago

in the Carboniferous period.

Through photosynthesis,

life influenced climate and created
a separate world in the Sun's galaxy.

The Earth became a living planet.

However, nothing about its origins
predicted that would happen.

At first,
Earth was above all unbearable.

A world of embers and fire.

Today there are still
1,500 active volcanoes,

but barely 100 reach a state of eruption
like Bardarbunga in Iceland.

It's a volcano
that has effusive eruptions,

and is called "red",
the color of its over 1000-degree lava.

Volcanoes always blow hot

and their CO2 is still added
to the planet's atmosphere.

Their sulphur clouds
still screen the sun's rays.

Over time, Earth has been through
terrible extinctions

linked to volcanoes.

Life collapsed, burned, suffocated.

But each time, it resisted.

The secret of life on Earth

is, in fact, the ocean.

It is the caldron and crucible
of everything.

At a greater or lesser distance,
all life comes from water.

Algae became plants;

Crustaceans, insects

and fish, the forerunners
of land vertebrates.

Humans' distant ancestors, in turn,

will have looked like this sea iguana

the last of which live in the Galapagos.

They are tetrapods,
belonging to the aquatic vertebrates,

descendants of fish.

"Tetrapod" means "four feet".

They will have been used to paddle
and then, one day, to walk.

One day the furnace disappeared.

The rain was no longer acid.

The climate was temperate,

the atmosphere, charged with oxygen.

These Galapagos iguanas
are enjoying the sun's heat.

They carry on from sea animals

that learnt how to breathe out of water.

With each generation, organs evolved.

Some have kept both gills and lungs.

The mutation foretold the next era:

Conquering the land.

Tens of thousands of species
left the oceans.

A long journey from their known world

to the primary forests.

It took the adventurers
200,000,000 years

to reach that new world.

The first arrivals
weren't the strongest

but in fact the smallest,
such as salamanders:

The amphibians.

Frogs come from that family.

There are 5,500 known species of them
in the world.

Most of those nestle in the heart
of the Amazon forest.

The Waterfall frog is small,

about the size of a postage stamp.

It has suckers on its feet
to stick to tree leaves.

Frogs are fragile.
Their skin absorbs everything.

They contain vital substances:
Poisons and even natural anesthetics.

They are wonderful heirs
of the evolution of species.

Another very ancient group of conquerors
is the crocodiles.

They have hard skin and terrible jaws,

but they aren't actually
as strong as all that.

They depend
on their natural environment.

Any change in temperature
will soon exhaust them.

So they have learnt to live patiently...

This patience has helped with camouflage

and the art of concealment,

and produced an extraordinary variety
of shapes and sizes.

The Matamata turtle lives
in the Amazon's flood forest.

It can hold its breath
for several hours,

hidden like a leaf.

Anacondas can lie for days in ambush,
waiting for prey to come and drink.

The enormous snake slides between trees,
ready to drown it.

Snakes have always fascinated humans.

They are found in myths worldwide,

as inspiration for dragons.

In the Amazon,
the swamp never stays for long.

When the rain stops,
the water runs off into the rivers

and animals look
for other flooded areas.

They say forest summons rain.

Torrential rain,

sometimes a real downpour,
which results in these huge rivers.

Without trees, the Iguazu Falls,
in Brazil, would not exist.

Water, like life,
never pauses for thought.

How many species are there?

How many have changed life?

Deep in the heart of Iguazu

we can discover
one of the wonders of life's story.

200,000,000 years ago,

a species shared a common ancestor
with the crocodile family.

It left the water
and headed for the sky,

first becoming lighter and more nimble.

No doubt the first ones were happy
to jump forward,

before the big final leap.

This is the story of birds.

Flying allowed them
to live in a new world.

Like the great dusky swift,
which lives at the heart of Iguazu

to escape from their predators.

There are nearly 10,000 bird species.

They are the planet's
last living dinosaurs.

Forest is the memory of all experiences
of life on Earth.

It is an open-air book,

where you learn to fly, crawl
or indeed swim,

and that contrary to appearances,

primary forests' soil is not rich

but often poor and acidic.

Thus some plants are carnivores.
One such is drosera.

Drosera covers itself in dew,
to trap its prey.

It's a trick.

Insects are attracted by its smell
and even its look.

The trap shuts,
thanks to sensitive hairs

which give off a signal.

The animal is then digested by the sap.

The Venus flytrap takes
between two and three weeks

to digest a prey.

Then one day
it throws away an empty skeleton

and waits for its next prey.

But to reproduce,
plants needed another trick.

In this green,
almost monochromatic world,

eyes were used to looking
only for contrasts.

As sight improved,

an incredible revolution took place:

The revolution of color.

Plants needed to be in touch
with each other in order to reproduce.

But how, since they're firmly rooted?

Some plants came up with
a brand-new strategy:


Plants dressed up in bright colors.

They put out scents and flavors.

That is how flowers were born.

Flowers' job was to attract things
that fly, crawl or walk:

In short, manipulate foragers
to use them without their knowing.

It's called pollination.

As it gathers pollen,
the insect carries it

between male and female flowers.

Job done.

Another way life takes advantage
of the alliance between species.

But even more than the butterfly

the best plant and animal love story

is that of the hummingbird.

It is a bird that only feeds
on flower nectar.

Its beak and tongue are designed
to go deep between petals.

There are
over 300 species of hummingbird,

each made for a shape of flower.

Hummingbirds' hearts beat fast:

Up to 1,200 beats per minute.

All that comes from nectar,

which is so energy-rich
that they can achieve unique feats.

This bird is a champion mover,

but make no mistake,
the flower is in charge.

In the mating season each year,

seduction is the game
in Central American forests.

The winner is, without a doubt,
the marvelous spatuletail.

It is a very rare species,
living only in tropical mountain areas.

Adult males have two feathers
shaped like spatulas

with which they do
an incredibly fast dance.

The forest is the stage
for a feather ballet.

After the mating season,

the parents teach their children
the famous color code,

the key to obtaining food,

and the cycle will begin over.

The forest teaches us

that living things cooperating

is more important than it seems.

Amazonia's leafcutter ants
are arthropods.

They have a distinctive feature:

They grow a fungus.

They can choose species, take cuttings

and multiply them.

They feed on the fungus, which means
they have stores all year round

even in adverse seasons.

Some ants do nothing
while others work hard,

but these insects are the origin
of life in society,

where each being has a place

and a role in a group.

Thus the colony is a super-organism,

able to survive famines

and even to break down whole trees.

The birth of societies
was a turning point.

The end of an era of solitude

when all had to survive, resist,
and hang on to life on their own.

That was 200,000,000 years ago.

That was when the mammal saga began.

It's our family,

that of human beings.

Mammals like this Brazilian capuchin

are warm-blooded vertebrates.

They suckle their young
and live in clans.

And that changes everything.

Family life brought lots
of unexpected prospects

for play and mutual aid.

It was a great leap in evolution.

Group living fostered culture,
and passing it on.

Ingenuity and curiosity

led to the first tools being created.

The capuchins' experience was striking.

It prefigured the stage
of dramatic change for the world.

The time of humans would come.

They would take two million years
to stand up and organize.

Like capuchins,
they too would use stone.


A new adventure was to begin on Earth.

They had to close the great jungle book

and dive into darkness.

My own story begins here,
that of Homo Sapiens.

Learned humans, who bequeathed
their paintings to posterity.

They were done 36,000 years ago
in the Chauvet Cave.

Homo sapiens
owe their survival to wits.

Probably the same power that led them
to represent what they saw.

1,000 drawings and paintings,
done in iron oxide and charcoal,

since humans had mastered fire.

14 animal species can be identified,

including dangerous ones such as lions,

mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses and bears.

They didn't draw themselves.

They drew other living things.

They were aware they existed.

Homo sapiens no doubt wondered a lot
and received no replies.

So they filled the gaps with art,

expression and culture.

A whole network
of highly complex stories and codes.

Later, this awareness allowed humans
to think up domestication,

agriculture and animal rearing.

But for then,
animal flesh was what kept them alive.

They needed heat and food.

Skins to clothe themselves.

They had to kill much larger animals.

And one mystery remained unsolvable:


The subject exercised the minds
of early humans.

Thus, no doubt, was shamanism born.

A dialogue between humans
and the spirits of Nature.

It's an arrangement with our conscience.

Hunting thus became an exchange.

Killing prey was negotiated
with the spirits of the forest.

It was nothing but life.

Water singing in the river,
rocks on either side of it.

Trees had souls, good or bad,

threatening or kindly.

You could talk to them

and they talked back.

Those so-called "animist" beliefs

were widespread in prehistory.

In awareness and belief,

homo sapiens was above all
tuned into the living world.

From early on, humans cooperated
with animals in hunting,

and especially with grey wolves.

Wolf is a clannish animal.

It, too, hunts for food.

The two had to tame
and learn to respect each other.

For thousands of years,
we hunted together.

The cooperation was worthwhile,
and that is why it was there,

but it was uncertain.

Wolves were domesticated
15,000 years ago.

They were the first.

They gave birth to the dog family.

However, the wolf branch
has remained entirely wild,

which set the animal apart
in human memory.

In children's tales, it plays the role
of mistrusted ally.

Wild wolves became our enemies.

Another animal had come to serve humans.

They say cows came into my life
when they came into my field.

It was the start of domestication.

"Domesticate" meant nourish,

protect these beasts
and control their reproduction.

It was difficult,

but successful.

Now, there are over a billion cattle
in the world,

all descendants
of a small group of aurochs

domesticated in the Middle East

ten thousand years ago.

Relations between humans and
the natural world changed drastically.

Cows provided a rich source of food,

their leather was used

and above all,
they were used for work in the fields.

It was the age of agriculture.

Agriculture is also
a form of domestication,

that of plants.

Humans learnt to select
and reproduce rice,

poppies, oats and wheat,

of which there were thousands
of native varieties on Earth.

In spite of technical progress,
animals are still with us.

They are the strength
of those who have little.

Today, there are
1,350,000,000 small farmers in the world.

Humans were breeders,

and masters, too.

Domestic animals brought prosperity.

They made us proud.

They ended up
at the heart of human beliefs

because humans had to offer to their god

the most precious thing they had.

Animals became offerings.

Still today, animals are sacrificed
to divine powers.

Several million Indians and Nepalese
travel to the tiny village of Gadhimai

in the lowlands of Nepal.

They come to make a wish
to the Hindu goddess of power,


But for it to be heard,

the bad spirits must be offered a life
to turn them away from the goddess.

For those who have made the journey,

that animal was often
the family's only wealth.

A death in exchange for a better life.

200,000 animals
- Buffalo, but also goats...

were sacrificed
during the 2014 Gadhimai Festival.

It was the last one.

Sacrifice will no longer happen.

Indian and Nepalese public opinion
finally got it banned for good.

Gadhimai is a symbol,
a shocking picture.

But in the end,
doing away with it makes no difference.

I hold the power of life or death
over the planet.

Humanity is capable of sacrificing life
but also celebrating it.

Spring brings festival time

which punctuates
periods of feast or famine.

Each year in India
is held the Holi festival,

where people pray
for fertile land to return.

In the state of Utar Pradesh,
Holi is even linked to Krishna,

the supreme Hindu god.

Rich and poor, men and women,

castes mix at the spring full moon

for two days' dancing and rejoicing.

They celebrate the love of life.

Each color has a precise meaning.

Green is for harmony,
orange for optimism,

blue for energy

and red for love and joy.

Plant spirits and shamanism
have disappeared.

The gods have changed aspect,
but the belief remains.

Spring remains
one of Planet Earth's miracles.

I owe spring to these bees, instead.

They are guided by flavors,

manipulated by flowers
that want them to forage.

In a bee colony,
scout bees go over the land.

When they find the flowers they want,
they tell the others.

If one of them goes round in a circle,

it means the flower
is close to the hive.

If it moves forward, buzzing,

it is showing where a further-off copse
is in relation to the sun.

The workers come and feel that bee

to see if her scent shows
the discovery is worthwhile.

Then they begin a dance.

It is a vote,

to decide whether
to go and gather nectar.

That is where I come in.

I supply the bees flowers.

Millions of flowers.

In exchange,
they pollinize the fruit trees

such as these Californian almonds.

I offer them abundance,

but it comes at a price.

Drinking from the same flowers

can be dangerous.

Bees are sometimes poisoned

by the pesticides used on these trees.

I sacrifice some
of this precious worker army

because life seems to me
to be an unending resource.

Each year, over 50,000 hives

are imported by truck
from all over the States.

That comes to nearly ten billion bees.

They stay a few weeks,
long enough to pollinize the trees.

4 out of 5 almonds sold in the world
come from the state of California.

This masterpiece of rational farming

brings in 15 billion dollars per year.

There isn't enough water for more.

Farming uses
three-quarters of the world's stocks.

When water becomes too scarce,
trees are even torn out:

Quicker, more profitable.

There is a deep change
in our relationship to life.

It is no longer mystical,

it has become economical.

In the name of agricultural productivism
much may be done:

Levelling mountains, diverting rivers...

No one wanted to burn forest down

but no one wanted to be hungry, either.

The primary forests
have almost vanished.

A third of the world's surface
has been developed for agriculture.

In ten thousand years,
the face of the Earth has changed.

Every day, 400,000 humans are born
and 160,000 die.

That makes 240,000 more humans
to feed on Earth.

Every day.

The world's population
has passed the seven billion mark.

The economy is chasing perpetual growth.

Performance and intelligence
push humanity on.

Education, culture...

Human society
is a concentration of brains.

At the same time, a huge gap is opening
between humans and living things.

Humans' towns are ever bigger,

ever more fantastic.

They are the center of a vast network
everything converges on.

This progress also changes our diet.

Rich societies no longer make do
with wheat and rice.

Demand for meat is soaring.

A growth sector running at full speed,

breeding has in its turn
become a globalized industry.

The three biggest exporters
are India, Brazil and Australia.

In this vast country,
space is not lacking.

The farms are as much as
a million hectares.

Cowboys use helicopters to push cows.

Near Darwin, in the Northern Territory,

ranches often possess
50,000 head of cattle.

The cows are selected
for their natural resistance.

They are Brahman and Angus cross-breeds,

and can live alone all year.

Everywhere, barbed-wire fences
channel them towards the ranches.

Once a year, these vast herds
are brought together, branded

and inspected before sale for export

to the Asian and European markets.

Australia exports over 1,500,000 tonnes
equivalent carcass of beef.

The animals are not even counted.

Alive or cut into pieces,
they are weighed.

Animals have become products.

Cows are products.

The United States were pioneers
in this commodifying of life.

Now, with the need for profitability,

living free and family farms
are no longer considered.

The systems is based on fattening pens
with up to 100,000 animals.

A grass-free diet,

based on maize and growth hormones.

They even eat animal bone meal,

made from ground-up animal carcasses.

It is a cocktail of proteins
that forces the animals' growth.

It is known as intensive breeding.

Feeding is supervised by scientists,

but basically they are force-fed

to produce more meat,
more quickly, more cheaply,

for profit.

So I shut my eyes to it.

Cows and also goats have become
machines for synthesizing raw materials.

At one end, water and fodder are put in,

at the other, 700 million tonnes of milk
come out per year.

The animals suffer,
but must produce more.

And the market lowers its price.

Automation reduces labor costs,

and cuts humans off
even more from animals.

I want to eat meat,

but I would rather not see
the animals must die.

So I close my eyes.

Each year, humans kill and cut up
60,000,000,000 animals.

Sixty billion lives.

Nearly ten times the human population.

In a single year.

Only industrial abattoirs
and intensive industries

can keep up
with an ever-increasing demand for meat.

The work of death is optimized.

It's slaughter on a vast scale.

Assembly-line work
was invented in abattoirs

at the end of the 19th century.

Efficient and rational,

it was taken up in car factories.

The food industry just meets
an absurd demand:

Producing ever more,
to be sold ever more cheaply.

The job of slaughter is testing,

so people try not to think about it.

Each worker's action is cut off
from the sequence that gives it meaning.

You don't kill, you just press a button.

You don't cut up a pig,
you just remove a part of it.

So we don't eat animals,

we eat escalopes, steaks, bits...
Anonymous parts,

as though no life had ever existed.

Ten thousand years,
that's just 500 human generations.

It has taken only that time for forest
to disappear and savannah to retreat.

Wild species have been pushed back

to the farthest reaches of the globe.

In some cases, conflicts between
humans and animals have multiplied

and nature reserves have been created.

Botswana has
one of the world's biggest parks,

on the delta of the Okavango River.

Here, humans are scarcer than animals

and life is different.

People visit these sanctuaries,
a bit like zoos, but bigger.

You can go on a safari
to see the last of the wild animals.

There is an admission charge

and in return, the territory is managed.

The reserve thus becomes a sort
of open-air natural history book,

surveyed with curiosity.

And what an incredible show!

On this flat land,

the river splits into hundreds of canals
scattered with islands

and meanders that spread
into the far distance

over 15,000 square kilometers.

Okavango is an exceptional territory.

All of a sudden,
you're on a wild planet.

So you understand
how 25 million years of evolution

have given giraffes long necks,

so that they can reach
the high acacia leaves.

You watch elephants at your leisure:

The acacias depend on them.

Elephants sow the seeds in their dung,

ensuring the trees reproduce
throughout the region.

Okavango has 200,000 elephants.

They live in clans,
led by the oldest females,

who are the memory of lands and seasons.

The clans spend their days
looking for food and watering places.

With their ivory tusks,
they strip the trees' bark

and rip up their roots for food.

However it may look,
these vast pachyderms are sensitive.

Their trunks can lift a trunk,
or stroke,

or communicate with a clan member.

Watching these wild animals
is captivating,

but these entertainments
are living beings.

Putting nature into sanctuaries
doesn't do much.

It's a precautionary measure

to slow the end of a world,

a world that still fascinates me.

My story is linked to these animals,
more than I want to admit.

It awakens a memory,
an invisible thread

linking my existence
to all living things.

I know that,

but I also know I need more space.

200,000 elephants,
that's half the elephants in all Africa.

There are too many of them
for just the Okavango territory.

But this delta is all that is left.

So these animals
must learn to live as refugees.

Botswana has banned all hunting

but the elephants are free
to migrate to nearby countries.

Namibia sells licenses to kill.

The licenses are legal,
and aim to regulate populations.

How much do they reckon the surplus is?

The numbers vary constantly.

What doesn't change is the principle:

I sacrifice elephants

to protect the last of them.

And when it happens
that hippopotamuses or elephants

bring in less than the land they live on

what will happen?

The Okavango Delta
is not a deprived land.

It is a lush delta,
thanks to the river's water.

That very water
now threatens the reserve.

Angola and Namibia, upriver,

need it to irrigate
an immense rice-growing project.

If the project succeeds,
this delta is likely to become a desert.

And yet,
you have to understand the people

who need water for their farming.

How to choose: protecting elephants

or feeding humans?

As the date approaches,
efforts are made to protect the animals.

South African reserves are
the last refuge for rhinoceroses.

Some reserves are too small for them,
or are closing,

so the animals have to be moved
to new reception centers.

A strong sedative
stops the rhino's muscles.

Its eyes must be bound
and its ears plugged.

This giant might die of a heart attack
if it realized

it was going to fly!

Such place transfers are rare

and are carried out by specialists:
Vets and scientists

who devote their lives to this wildlife.

I promised myself I would succeed,
but my efforts are pathetic.

I am fighting against my own creation.

I save with one hand,

and with the other I slaughter.

Elephants are killed for their tusks,

rhinos for their horns.

These great animals,
veterans of the history of life,

are easy targets for poachers

with their automatic weapons,
off-road vehicles and radios.

There are only 20,000 rhinoceroses
left in the world, mainly in Africa.

It is a protected species,
we thought it was safe.

But in 2014,

in just one year, 1,500 of them
fell to traffickers' bullets.

Ground to a powder, rhinoceros horn
is used in traditional Asian medicines.

High demand means rates rocket.

At 50,000 euros per kilo,

rhinoceros horn is now
more expensive than gold.

As elephants die,
so the price of ivory rises.

The more I kill, the more I get.

I speculate on the scarcity of life.

Recreational hunting makes
200 million dollars a year in Africa.

It is organized
in the name of species regulation.

But in fact, it is killing for sport.

For the sad glory of trophies.

Until a wild animal
is seen as in danger

it can be killed
and its body exhibited.

In Denver, a federal warehouse keeps
the animals captured on US territory.

Thousands of ornaments, clothes,
accessories and drugs

snatched from a living world.

A sad inventory,
bearing witness to possession, cruelty

and domination.

30,000 years after Chauvet,
Denver is a new sort of cave

but this time,
its walls tell of immense madness:

My madness.

No region is spared.

Even in the north, in the Arctic region,
life is on borrowed time.

The realm of polar bears,

the biggest carnivores on Earth.

This legendary animal
is now protected by law.

It is even a symbol.

It showed the world
the melting ice fields,

a sign that climate was changing.

But in the end, laws and symbols
do not mean much when you are a bear.

Laws and symbols
do not protect human life either.

The Nenets are disappearing too.

They have always lived in Siberia,
keeping pace with the cold,

with herds of wild reindeer.

Nature is like a language to them.

Every detail counts:

Changes in tree direction,
lichen, snow...

Each year, they migrate north in summer

and south in winter,
and down the Yamal peninsula,

the land of their ancestors.

The Nenets had survived the Tsars
and the Russian Revolution.

This time,
the unthinkable stands before them.

The whole climate is changing.

The Nenets are seeing their kingdom melt
year on year.

More even than that,
what is catching them up

is industrial civilization.

The march of progress
is an unstoppable machine.

It is like these nuclear ice-breakers
which cross the Arctic.

Whatever the conditions

Russia, the heavy industry champion,
opens the way to its ships.

No need any longer
to read wind, or ice:

You can come to Siberia any time.

The aim is to reach the port of Dudinka
and load some nickel.

It is a scarce mineral on Earth.

This is one
of the world's biggest mines,

alongside a metallurgy complex:

Norilsk Mine.

Nickel is used to make alloys.

All aspects of metallurgy use it.

It even goes into coins.

The site is beyond the Arctic Circle

and is in the dark
for 4 months out of 12.

In spite of the cold,
as little as -50 degrees,

170,000 people live all year
in this concrete town,

which struggles with freezes and thaws.

Living here is an exploit,
but real life does go on here.

People play ice hockey here,
they dance here...

In the heart of winter,
you must stay indoors.

In any case,
you don't come here on holiday!

You come to serve a mine.

Norilsk is just one cog
in a vast machine,

the one that pushes humanity on
in a mad race

that is also grandiose.

Even if it poisons the whole planet.

In the morning,
people look not at the sun

but at the smoke,
to find out which sector will be toxic.

Each year, the site injects into
the atmosphere 2,000,000 tonnes of gas,

mainly carbon and sulphur.

This discharge,
with thousands of others,

will be carried around the planet
by wind and tides.

In a century 50,000 synthetic molecules
have been created.

They didn't exist before humans.

Today, that chemistry
is invading the entire planet.

What is this man breathing in,
barely protected by his cloth?

For whom is he sacrificing his own life?

Awareness of the danger
does not stop us carrying on.

90% of farming land
is drenched in pesticides.

Millions of tonnes of fertilizer
are injected in the soil.

This intensive chemistry
kills 200,000 people every year

amongst the production workers

and the farmers who use it.

The pollutants are everywhere
in living plant and animal tissues

and now, human ones too.

They simply climb up the food chain.

As of now, half of Europeans
have in their blood synthetic molecules

coming from herbicides.

More than a third of the planet's
agricultural land is damaged

and has had to be abandoned.

This chemistry wasn't designed
as a threat to us

nor to destroy life,

on the contrary,
it was meant to improve it.

But we didn't have hindsight
to distinguish progress from danger.

After chemistry,
hope now lies in genetics.

The dream is there, within reach.

Growing plants everywhere,

maybe even ending world hunger,

thanks to
genetically modified organisms.

With OGMs,
we no longer domesticate species,

we go into their vital functions

in order to modify them.

Cotton has thus been modified,
to diffuse its own insecticide.

Maize, to resist butterflies.

Soya, to bear
greater doses of herbicide.

You almost wonder
why the plants couldn't do it naturally!

GMO farming has spread like wildfire.

It has been legalized in 29 countries.

There is still doubt
about their danger to health,

and yet the whole world eats GMOs
without knowing.

GMOs are used as food
in intensive farming.

Beef is now a soya product

or a derivative of maize.

OGMs haven't solved
the problem of world hunger:

The seeds are patented
and can't be reproduced.

They can only be used once,
and then you have to buy some more.

I wonder where this forced march
I am imposing on life will end.

All in the name of profit.

When I look at Bangladesh,
it seems chaos is not very far off.

In these plains
of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra

farming is still done by hand,
using age-old methods.

Output is low and harvest uncertain.

All is ruled by the river's whims,

and tides and monsoon.

Land is moved by the currents,

stones and rocks are rare.

Endlessly, people rebuild dikes

and move onto new sand islands
to build houses and schools.

People live with little:
Subsistence fishing and farming.

All comes from the river.

Bangladesh has
a population of 160 million.

160 million people
who depend entirely on farming

and therefore on the climate.

It can't be seen yet,

but climate change
will make this all vanish.

Low-lying land will quickly
be submerged by the ocean,

the water polluted,

and all human life chased off this land.

Everything built here

is ephemeral.

Dhaka, the country's capital,

is one of the world's most crowded

with 40,000 inhabitants
per square kilometer.

Built at water level,
it cannot last long

exposed to any climate change.

Bangladesh's farmland is retreating,

nibbled at by erosion
and made salty by the ocean.

Like everywhere else,
farmers with no land move to town

to look for a job in a workshop
or textile factory

supplying the whole world.

Bangladesh too is caught in the wheels
of this industrialized planet

which is causing
this climate deregulation.

The industrial power
can't be seen in Dhaka

but in the south,
on the beaches of Chittagong,

on one of the world's
biggest ship-demolition sites.

Chittagong is a vision.

It looks like globalization washed up.

These freighters and tankers

fly the flags of all nations.

They were used for international trade.

No longer useful, they seem abandoned.

These monumental pieces,
symbols of industrial power,

are taken apart more or less by hand.

Thousands of tonnes of steel
must disappear

as cheaply as possible,

before the climate carries away
these beaches, and people.

How do different humanities
coexist on Earth?

How do the chemicals of some
change others' lives?

Why are people hungry here,
but not over there?

Chittagong is 10,000 kilometers
from Manhattan,

but no doubt one of those freighters
was chartered by a shipper here.

No doubt also, another office
buys cereal from Bangladesh

to sell it to another country.

And another gets cotton, wood or fodder.

Living plants are ordinary goods

that are haggled over in offices.

Common goods,
sold in their millions of tonnes.

Maybe in another skyscraper,
the trade is in agricultural land.

Millions of hectares sold
with its lichen,

its root
and all its invisible living things.

But a telephone here, in this town,

can also order a forest to be protected
or a species safeguarded.

No doubt
an office is already working, here

on avoiding world hunger.

Anticipating and organizing
are also part of human societies.

Understandings between windows
can create solutions for tomorrow.

But time is short.
No more must be wasted.

In forty years,
half the wild animals have disappeared.

They estimate that 60,000 plant species
will vanish

between now and 2050.

And there are unforeseen factors.

How to protect the Saiga antelopes,

if half of them die
in less than a month

because it got too hot?

Can we stop the last African lions
from disappearing,

hit by new, unheard-of illnesses?

The rate is 100 times higher
than is natural.

Factors combine.

If you add climate pressure,

everything has come together
for massive species extinctions.

How can we not fear that after animals,
plants, other living things,

next on the list is humans, ourselves?

So we will close our eyes this time
for good.

Sometimes starlings come together
in vast groups

and fly in formation.

It's like life on Earth.

A masterpiece of creation,
beauty and harmony.

Since humans have existed

the story of life
has been shaped by their awareness.

Once more considering
the life around us,

reviving attention and respect
for other living beings

can yet make a huge difference.

So now I remember:

"wild" does not mean "barbarian".

Wild isn't the opposite of civilized.

Wild simply means

they who live in the forest.

Defending wildness, defending forests,

is like defending my history.

My planet.

My inner home.

The more I observe the wild world,
the more I understand.

It is the marker that is not on my path.

Alone, battling my civilization,

I have managed to conquer hunger
and protect my family.

But the race is losing me now.

So if I learn again to live in harmony

now, with that wildlife,

I will become human again

for myself, for my family

and I will protect my own species.

The love of other living things
is somewhere in me.

That is what speaks to my childish soul.

That is what squeezes my heart
with the emptiness of death.

So let me open my eyes upon the world

and look at it with respect.