10 Sustainability Documentaries that change the way we see the world

July 2021 _ 10 Documentaries to learn about sustainability
Main illustrations by Cami Dobrin

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A CHALLENGE TO SHAKE-UP YOUR LIFESTYLE. THERE ARE MANY WAYS YOU CAN CREATE CHANGE AND BUILD AWARENESS, WHETHER IT’S THE WAY YOU EAT, HOW MANY STEPS YOU TAKE A DAY, WHAT YOU WEAR, WHEN YOU GO TO SLEEP, MEDITATE, WASTE-FREE, TECHNOLOGY-FREE, YOU NAME IT, THERE’S PROBABLY BEEN A CHALLENGE MADE FOR IT.

They say knowledge is power. And documentaries offer us a platform to connect with real people, experiencing real life events and allow us to learn, understand and gain education around real topics.

They give us the chance to gain a knowledge, and a power, that we simply wouldn’t have had access to previously. They expose truths. Document reality. They offer us the chance to learn, and grow from our mistakes, on a global level.

Over the last few years, the topic of consumerism, sustainability in agriculture, pollution, climate change and all things related to these global themes have been at the top of the documentary charts.

People are hungry to find out more and film-makers the world over are dedicating their days to revealing answers and sharing them with the community. We’ve taken a look at some of the more popular and shocking documentaries that have been filmed over the last 10 years, and encourage you, dare you even, to make some space over the next few months to watch each and every one.

Remember, knowledge is power, so inform yourself about what’s happening in your back-yard, Listen to the facts that you’re not comfortable with, take action and make a change in your life and that of your families.

1

Our Planet

Planet under threat

“This is a critical moment for our planet. For the first time in our history, the global connections that all living things rely upon are breaking. But if we act quickly, we have the knowledge and the solutions to make our planet thrive again”.

David Attenborough

This David Attenborough-narrated series offers a slow-motion, ballet dance videography style look at our planet. As it aims to describe the jaw-droppingly complexity and scale of impact that humanity has had on the planet, in such a short time.

The fragility and interconnectedness of all the species and eco-systems is evident throughout the film and Our Planet is an eight-part British series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries. It’s produced by Silverback Film and is filmed in collaboration with the
conservation charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Each episode takes a different landscape and showcases the world's natural wonders, iconic species and wildlife spectacles that are luckily still happening currently. Although, are in grave danger of disappearing. The eight episodes are focused on - One planet, frozen worlds, jungles, coastal seas, from deserts to grasslands, the high seas, fresh water, forests.

Discover the story of the one place we all call home.

Learn more about Our Planet

2

The Game Changers

Veganism

“It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it. So it becomes a moral choice, and one that is having a huge impact On the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere”.

James Cameron

The Game Changers is a 2018 documentary film, presented by a number of celebrities, that advocates a plant-based diet by highlighting the health and performance benefits of veganism over an omnivore diet.

Showcasing success stories of athletes that have adopted a vegan lifestyle, the filmmakers argue that a plant-based diet is not only beneficial for all people, but suggest that this type of lifestyle is actually superior to omnivorous diets, as it promotes heart health, decreases inflammation, lowers cancer risk, and improves physical performance.

The film received a lot of criticism by what was explained as offering flawed arguments, scientific inaccuracies and several even accused the film of promoting misinformation and pseudoscience. Medical doctors (who support plant-based diets) have defended the film.

Learn More about Game Changers

3

Before The Flood

Climate Change

"You are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it or we, and all living things we cherish, are history".

Leonardo DiCaprio

Before the Flood is a feature-length documentary presented and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. The Oscar-winning actor and environmentalist takes a look at the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change and throughout the film we’re shown the type of actions we can take as a society to prevent the disruption of life on our planet.

Leonardo spent three years interviewing a wide range of intelligent, successful and in the know people about climate change like President Obama, Elon Musk, the Pope and focused on complex topics like science, politics, climate change impact and possible solutions.

Learn More about Before the Flood

4

Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest

Forest regeneration

“In some mysterious way woods have never seemed to me to be static things. In physical terms, I move through them; yet in metaphysical ones, they seem to move through me”.

John Fowles

This short 30-minute, easy to watch documentary about Hinewai Nature Reserve, on New Zealands Banks Peninsula focuses on one man's vision for the planet and his dedication to regenerate nature's splendor.

Botanist Hugh Wilson is the manager of the reserve …….. in 1987, with agreement from the local community, although considered a plan expected only of fools and dreamers, Hugh introduced the ‘weed’ gorse into the local farmland to grow and regenerate the native forest.

Fast Forward 30 years and Hugh now boasts 1,500 hectares of native forest, an abundance of birds and other wildlife, 47 known waterfalls in permanent flow and has proven that nature knows best – and that he is definitely no fool.

This is a heart-warming tribute to the resilient power of nature and what one inspired human can really achieve.

Learn More about Fools and Dreamers

“Forest regeneration is one of the most important actions that needs to be taken globally to address the environmental crises we’re facing today. Our hope is that people from all over the world will draw inspiration from what’s happening at Hinewai Reserve, which is why we’ve made the film free to view”.

From the Makers

5

The Biggest Little Farm

Better living, healthier planet

“Here's the thing: We live in a state of fear right now; there's so much to be afraid of. And the natural response in the midst of fear is to turn away. The thing I've found is that anything we're facing on the farm, the antidote to it is curiosity. Actually taking the time to understand why the bad thing exists”.

The Biggest Little Farm follows the Chester family over an eight-year quest to swap their city living, to a sustainable life on the farm and fulfill their dream of harvesting in harmony with nature.

John, Molly and their dog embark on a wild journey, embracing opportunities provided by nature, understanding the type of biodiversity that is on their front doorstep, they listened to nature, practiced perseverance and showed that you can do this too.

Learn more about Biggest Little Farm

6

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things 

Consumerism

“We're living our life depending on the space we've got rather than creating our space to fit our lives”.

“You can never get enough of what you don't really want”.

How might your life be better with less? A question from the makers. Have you ever thought about it?

Minimalism is A Documentary About the Important Things, and examines the addiction to consumerism that's currently plaguing our society. We have sadly been programmed to believe we are not content unless we own the latest gadgets, wear the latest fashion, or are even socially consuming day in day out.

The minimalists, who we’ve featured on our blog before take the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, and scientists.

Over consumption is a necessity for millions of companies selling products worldwide to survive, so we are bombarded with advertisements daily, targeted specifically to encourage us to invest our money, time, energy into their gadget or product. An insightful look at what consumerism is doing to us on an individual and societal level.

Learn more about Minimalism Documentary

7

Seaspiracy

Over-fishing

"If the ocean dies, so do we".

“These animals washing up with their stomachs filled with plastic was devastating not only because of their incredible intelligence, but because they even help keep the entire ocean alive”.

Seaspiracy is a 2021 documentary film examining human impacts on marine life and advocates for ending fish consumption. The main three actions that the film-makers are suggesting are:

1. Shift to a plant-based diet
2. Enforce no-catch marine reserves protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030
3. End fishing subsidies [currently $35 billion per year]

Like all documentaries there are arguments to the contrary, and we always suggest further research, however the main plea for change that British Filmaker, Ali Tabrizi, makes sense. Eat less meat, more veggies, protect our oceans and restrict overfishing.

Learn more about Seaspiracy

8

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Animal Agriculture

"Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation". 

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a 2014 documentary film which explores the environmental impact large-scale factory farming and animal agriculture in general has on our planet, and reveals a way in which we can create global sustainability for a growing population.

Kip Anderson, the director of this groundbreaking documentary, bravely shines light on subjects that the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about.

Learn more about Cowspiracy

9

Chasing Coral

Coral Reef Devastation

“Everything on our planet is connected".

“Coral reefs will not be able to keep up, they will not be able to adapt, and we will see the eradication of an entire ecosystem in our lifespan”.

“If we don't address the warming of the planet, we will lose this ecosystem and millions of people will suffer".

Chasing Coral is a documentary film that reveals the unprecedented rate that coral reefs are vanishing around the world. The film took more than three years to shoot, accumulated 500+ hours of underwater footage, included volunteers in 30 countries, and support from more than 500 people worldwide.

Learn more about Chasing Coral

10

More Than Honey

The fragile future of Bees

“If the bees ever die out, mankind will die four years later”.

“Our business relies entirely on pollination by bees (almond growers)”.

“Pure nature, no pesticides, no poisons”.

More than Honey is a 2012 Swiss documentary film about honeybee colonies in California, Switzerland, China and Austria. The film is spectacularly magnificent and so visually beautiful, you’ll be blown away. A rather laidback look at the type of ecological challenges facing bees, and in turn human beings in the future, if we don’t clean up our act.

Learn more about More Than Honey

EXTRA SUSTAINABILITY DOCUMENTARIES TO TUNE INTO

An Inconvenient Truth - focuses on understanding global warming.

The Ivory Game - Wildlife activists take on poachers in an effort to end illegal ivory trade.

The True Cost - A fashion-focused documentary that questions the true cost of your clothing.

“We do not
inherit the
Earth from our
Ancestors, we
borrow it from
our children”

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