A Cautionary Tale, Yet Hopeful Look Forward
By Staff Writers
The beauty of Earth from space is a matchless experience seen in IMAX, from the natural beauty of land and sea to the electric power of our world’s storms and natural occurrences. But the view from space is also a startling one as it depicts the impact humans have had on the Earth over time.
In “A Beautiful Planet,” Myers and her team capture the gradual depletion of the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million Americans in seven states, according to the film. In fact, so much of that area has changed that parts of the valley have sunk 30 feet over the past 75 years.
Other parts of the world are changing due to the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In Greenland, ice sheets are melting, which have the potential to increase sea levels and threaten cities in low-lying coastal areas. However, measures are being taken to help prevent this from happening with 186 countries pledging to limit their contribution to greenhouse gases.
Deforestation is another major concern highlighted in the film and its effects seen from space. Once covered in forests, the island of Madagascar is now brown; Brazil, too, has suffered significant losses as its immense rainforest — home to nearly half the species found on Earth — has been cut down and burned. Nearly half a million square miles have been lost over the past four decades.
At night from space, the Earth shines with the light of civilization — a primary benefit of digital capture. The film shows the brilliant lights of some of our greatest cities, from Moscow and Tokyo to Rome and Tel Aviv. Myers points out the distinction of wealth and politics, both of which are visible from space and represented by borders separating countries such as Pakistan and India. However, the most shocking separation is that between North and South Korea.
“Seoul, South Korea is one of the brightest, most vibrant cities on the planet,” Virts says in the film. “The whole South Korean country is lit up, and then there is this line of the border and this complete darkness of North Korea …
”Additionally, the astronauts were able to capture nighttime footage of the Gulf of Mexico, with the surrounding areas lit up by thousands of oil and gas flares as another direct visualization of the distress humanity is causing on the planet.
Virts, however, witnesses a positive change on Earth as the Chesapeake Bay in North America has been revived over the past decades. “That’s a great success story of conservation,” he says in the film.
Lindgren agrees that sharing his experience is an important step forward in creating positive change. He says, “I think that’s why we spent so much time taking photos and sharing them on social media, and it’s a reason why we were so excited to be on the IMAX team — to be able to share that experience, that perspective on the big-screen.”
Beyond Earth, “A Beautiful Planet” offers a fascinating look at what life could be like if conditions were right on distant planets light years away. The film refers to what scientists call the “Goldilocks Zone” — a system not too hot, nor too cold for liquid water to exist. Myers singles out one system called Kepler-186, which contains five Earth-sized planets, one of which — Kepler-186f — is situated at the right distance away from its star to sustain water … and life? That is perhaps the thought among scientists, though for Myers, the potential existence of another Earth is foremost a reminder torespect and preserve our home planet and the need to continue to explore and inspire, especially among our youth.
“I would certainly hope that particularly young people are curious about their surroundings on a broader scale, that they’re adventuresome in terms of space, not just science fiction and Star Wars,” Myers says. “I think it’s important that they know that there is real space exploration on a grand scale going on right now.
When you think of what we’ve achieved in such a short time on Earth, you can’t help but be optimistic,” Myers adds. “That’s what it is to be human.”
Publisher’s Note: I took my mom, dad and son to a special preview screening at the California Science Center. Mom said it best,
“I hope they show this film everywhere.”
Space exploration continues to deliver stunning results when NASA looks inward. We have A Beautiful Planet.
Go see this movie.
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