The Globalization of Species

Filed Under (SW2) by Manuela Mejia on 08-09-2010 and tagged , , , , ,

In the National Geographic documentary series, Strange Days on Planet Earth, narrator Edward Norton introduces the increasing global change related to invasive species as a mystery that the film attempts to solve by providing the audience with clues of such alien invaders. Along the way, Norton elaborates on some of the ecological and social effects these aliens have affected along the way. As expert ecologist Jim Carlton featured in the film explains, these aliens are spreading disease and devouring buildings with more and more arrivals every year.

The film is well organized, presenting each successful invader and showing its harmful effects in a visually interesting matter to ensure the viewer is captivated by the issue at hand. For example, to illustrate the fast movement of many insect species around the world, train wheels are juxtaposed with millipede legs. Flashback-style film clips keep the viewer intrigued and interested in the origin stories for many of the aliens.

Besides being visually interesting, the documentary also contains a great deal of valuable information. Creatures from termites in New Orleans to water hyacinth in Lake Victoria are highlighted, and the consequences of their invasions are detailed. In the ideal hot and sticky climate of New Orleans, termite arrivals from Asia make themselves right at home and destroy homes as well as outcompete native species by having the ability to nest anywhere. In Uganda, the water hyacinth covered up to 80% of the shoreline at one point, preventing fishermen from moving in the lake and getting sufficient catches to feed themselves and their families. It also blocks sunlight, causing the death and rotting of other species and thus decreasing water quality and serving as an impetus for many waterborne diseases. Possible methods of control are discussed, including poison for termites and biocontrol with weevils for the hyacinth.

Another valuable aspect of the documentary is its message to the audience to examine the world through a different lens. As Norton stresses, ignorance is seldom bliss and we must be responsible for our own actions. If we push our luck by carelessly transporting species from port to port in ballast tanks, our planet will eventually become one continent in which enormous amounts of extinction may occur. In my opinion, this documentary does a fantastic job of providing an overview of some effects alien species have on their new homes and makes an impression on the viewer by highlighting the dangers of the globalization of species.

2 Comments Already, Leave Yours Too

Daniel Stapor on 8 September, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

I also agree with you that ignorance is not an excuse. We need to be more aware of the consequences that our actions cause. We should focus on how to stop and somewhat prevent the transport of invasive species. Like you said, we need to be more responsible.

Abby Starnes on 9 September, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

I appreciate the way you analyzed the film’s visual aspects. The juxtaposition of the train wheels and the millipede legs was a great detail to include in the review.