Doco Review: The Human Element

Bryan J. Rollins
Sep 2 · 2 min read

The first in a series of climate documentaries that I’ll be watching and reviewing.

The Human Element (2018, imdb, website). Available on iTunes. 77 minutes.

  • Watch it? Yes. Stars? Four.
  • Audience: Both the converted and those who would respond to a positive, non-political message
  • What’s great: Visuals (film, photos) are exceptional.

Photographer James Balog takes us through a journey of the “four elements”, water, air, fire, and earth, to see how we’ve modified the natural world around us, and in turn how we’re making life for ourselves harder in the process.

This movie is a unique climate change documentary because it focuses more on the impact on humans — on individuals.

In Water, we see how ocean levels are going to displace entire communities, like Tangier Island near Chesapeake Bay. You cringe as you hear one resident say, “We’re 1 storm away from becoming a part of history.”

In Air, we look into the eyes of children in Denver with their inhalers during a school day, as poor air quality is accelerating the frequency and severity of asthma.

In Fire, we see the families in tents, who barely escaped their now destroyed homes with almost nothing. Mega fires are the new normal.

In Earth, James acknowledges and honours his history with coal — his grandfather, a Russian immigrant, died in a coal mine, providing for his family so his son could go to college. He pays homage to those who have worked so hard and often given their lives to the mine. And he celebrates those who are finding new ways to power our lives without the death and disease of coal mining.

The documentary lives up to its name — it doesn’t throw a lot of science at you, but states simple, clear facts of the damage that James has already seen through the lens of his camera. Just a couple of examples:

  • 265 billion in costs and over 3000 people died from 3 hurricanes in 2017
  • Billions in damages from wildfires, and 17,000 deaths from wildfire smoke

I would recommend this movie to someone whom has a sense of empathy for others, who cares about the people in our countries who will be first affected. I think it can help people understand the hurt that is happening, and is only getting worse.

For me, it helped me reconnect to the reason why I’m doing this. I can easily get bogged down in the day to day and lose sight of the why. Because if we don’t make a difference, it’s just going to lead to more suffering, and that starts with some of the most vulnerable people on our planet.

BJR On Climate

My focus for the foreseeable future is going to be on climate change in Australia.

Bryan J. Rollins

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BJR On Climate

My focus for the foreseeable future is going to be on climate change in Australia.

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