Blackfish (Extra Credit)

I decided to write my review over a documentary that has caused a lot of financial instability for this specific theme park, and tugged at a lot of heart strings; Blackfish. First off, if you haven’t seen Blackfish, I highly recommend you do. It’s an amazing film. As a huge animal rights advocate, this a film that I hold dear to my heart. I make all of my friends and family watch it and I’ve probably watched it myself about 20 times, as each time you learn something that you might’ve missed before.

For those who do not know, Blackfish is about Seaworld, more specifically,  the Orca whales or “killer whales” that they have there. The whole documentary is narrated by previous Seaworld Orca trainers. They all have a different story as to how they ended up as a trainer. However, after staying in the business for a few years, they started figuring out for themselves that Seaworld was not an animal friendly place. I think that if this film had any potential bias it would be from outside influencers such as PETA. But it’s important to keep in mind that these people telling their stories at one point, loved what they did. So I don’t think that there is any bias from them as they have been on the supporting side of the business and now on the opposing side.


Some of these whales were bred in captivity, but some of them were illegally captured and that is the case for Tilikum. Tilikum was the largest male whale Seaworld had. They captured him from Canada when he was just a baby and he was then put into the facility “Sealand of the Pacific.” He was the whale that all of the trainers looked forward to working with, they trusted him the most. But Tilikum was trained in a method that was highly unethical. They paired him with two trained whales and would send all three off to do the same behavior and if one of them (aka Tilikum) got it wrong, then all of them would be deprived of food. At night, these three whales were stored in a steel box on the water that wasn’t large enough for all of them. There was so much hostility between the whales that every morning, Tilikum would have new scratches on his body where the females would rake him with their teeth. The scientists believe that this 24/7 bullying eventually led him to a mental psychosis. In the wild it’s a matriarchal society. Male whales are kept at a perimeter. However in captivity, there is no escape. Tilikum took his first life at Sealand of the Pacific and was then purchased by Seaward with the promise that he would not be used in shows and would not be used for breeding purposes. Long story short, he was used for both and now a good amount of Seaworld’s whales have his aggressive tendencies. In this documentary it is noted that Orcas have a part of their brain that humans do not have. This part of their brain extends out to the right adjacent to their limbic system, the system that processes emotions. It processes emotion on a much deeper level. They have a sense of self and of social bonding that is at a much deeper level than humans. It’s unfortunate that these animals live the lives that they do.

We took these animals out of their natural environment where they swim hundreds of miles everyday, stay with their mother their entire lives, and communicate with one another and stuck them in a pool. Each group or family of whales has their own set of behaviors and communication. Seaworld has composed a random group of whales for each attraction they have, often causing a lot of aggression and ultimately leading to many whales dying in captivity. In the wild, there is no documentation of any killer whale doing harm to a human. Whales are a part of our environment and we are, unfortunately, using them to our advantage. This is just another example of human’s negative impact on our environment and the wildlife.


Can find Blackfish on Netflix. (I really really recommend watching it.)


Forks Over Knives

Lee Fulkerson’s Forks Over Knives documentary explores the claim that diseases can be controlled and possibly reversed by changing the American diet from animal-based foods to whole foods and plant-based foods. Not only is the American diet overflowing with animal-based products, it is also flourishing in highly processed foods.  Obesity statistics are skyrocketing along with our top leading causes of death, cancer and heart disease.  Hypertension and diabetes are other food-related diseases that may arise as obesity takes over.  The doctors and research cases that are revealed in this documentary display how they went about proving that your diet can become a form of medicine when executed properly. This is not a new concept. In fact, 2,000 years ago Hippocrates made the statement,  “ let food be thy medicine”.  The science and research behind his statement wasn’t applied until the 1950s as researchers, such as Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell began putting this claim to the test.  They conducted labs that exposed rats to animal nutrient cultures and many more.  They also pulled statistics from other nations, such as Kenya or Japan, and compared their disease rates to America.  One study shows that America’s breast cancer rate averaged nearly 80 times that of Kenya, simply because Kenyans did not have access to the protein and dairy that Americans have access to.  One of Dr. Esselstyn’s patients, Anthony Yen, who is a Japanese native that moved to America as a healthy adult.  Yen soon began endulging into the fast, convenient foods of America and shortly became a victom of weight gain, heart disease, and 5 bypass sugeries.  Yen explained how the Japanese diet consisted mainly of rice, soup, and vegetables, and that American’s servings of meat per person could feed a whole family in Japan.  There are a handfull of degeneratively-diseased patients reveiwed throughout the film who have made the decision to follow a whole food, plant-based diet, including Yen.  Each patient received worthy results after committing to the diet, and some were even able to ditch the pills, reverse their disease, and exceed their life expectancy.  In conclusion, Dr. Campbell and Dr Esselstyn pinpoint animal-based foods as the cause for disease, especially for cancer and heart disease.  Dr Campbell believes that authorities are avoiding this valuable concept in order to protect the status quo, which is ridiculous.  I know that doctors will recommend diabetics change their diet and it’s up to them to decide whether they want to listen or not, but sometimes healthy foods are not accessible or affordable to patients.  Having the support from authorities would be helpful.  As seen in Food Inc., the food industry has so much power that authorities are allowing them to produce tons of unhealthy foods that have been known to raise disease risks.  Dr Campbell believes that America could decrease health care costs by 70%-80% if everyone were to adopt this dietary pattern.  It’s a shame how much money is put into America’s health care and yet our nation is sicker than ever.  Food is essential to us because of its nutrition, culture, and tradition, but instead of “living to eat” we should learn to “eat to live”.


Food Inc.

This documentary was extremely eye-opening! The overall documentary was about the Food System and the things that are “hidden” from us (regular society), and that these things that are swept under the rug or misconstrude are effecting our health dramatically. It also explains how the Food System is in fact a huge system that is corrupted with government lobbying and subsidies. The main takeaway that I got from the film is that America is more concerned with revenue than its peoples well-being. I’ve seen this hold true before in other situations other than the Food System, like our Medical and Insurance System. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were turned away from insurance companies and were left either to die or go completely bankrupt from medical bills. The ACA has helped with this issue, but Americans are still going bankrupt from medical bills while this is not the case in other countries and their people are way healthier.

The documentary begins with showing the truth behind where our food comes from, and how this pretty picture of a farm is no where near what farms look like nowadays. Now our food comes from Industrial Farms, which are basically assembly lines where food is produced quickly and cheap. As we are walking down the isles we would like to think that we have so many options to choose from when in reality the industry is monopolized by 4 big indsutry farm companies. The meat is the same quality meat as fast food restuarants being that these restaurants are the biggest buyers from industry farm companies. The animals in these farms never see the light of day and are kept in small unsanitary conditions putting our food and the workers who work there at risk for disease.

The documentary goes on to discuss how we regulary genetically modify the meat and produce that we consume. Chickens grow way larger now making them less healthy for consumption but cheaper. Also corn is so cheap in the states that we use it for EVERYTHING. We feed it to our livestock and make it in to sugar and other products so that they can be cheaper. Most produce that is out of season but are being sold year round in grocery stores are genetically modified. A major issue with feeding cows corn is that they can not digest it properly causing a disease known as E. Coli. Many have lost their lives due to this sickness and there has even been a movement to pass a law restricting cows from being fed corn (Kevins Law), but it has not passed.

Then the question becomes why don’t our legislators do something about this? How come nothing changes? And the answer is lobbying. These large food companies have a lot of say in what passes and what doesn’t when it comes to food restrictions and laws, because they are essentially paying the legislators. Another reason is that many of our legislators also serve on the boards for these large food companies or organizations like the FDA.

Overall this film was very informative yet also kind of discouraging. Peronally, I feel like not many people are aware of these issues and this is what needs to be told in order for a change to take place.

Chasing Coral – A Netflix Documentary

Chasing Coral


“Chasing Coral” is a gloomy but surprisingly hopeful film on the topic of coral bleaching and how climate change has escalated its impact in recent years. The director, Jeff Orlowski, also produced a film on climate change’s impact on arctic glaciers called “Chasing Ice” (2012). Orlowski even brings a few of the main cast members from his previous documentary to illustrate how climate change is a global issue. The film begins with shots of coral reefs and a monologue from Richard Vevers stating how vital coral reefs are for not only to marine life but for millions of humans as well. Vevers, concerned about the health of the reefs, started The Ocean Agency after working in advertising for many years. Vevers grew worried with the deterioration of coral reefs when he noticed that sea dragons were disappearing from his favorite spots. The goal of Vevers’ organization and this film is to better educate the public on coral reefs. He has and continues to work on doing just that by “bringing google street-view underwater” with a specially designed 360 degree camera that captures images every 3 seconds.

However, Vevers wanted to better illustrate coral bleaching and how quickly its impacts can take place, so a team of scientists and hobbyists came together to develop a way to make time-lapse cameras capable of staying underwater for four months without human interaction. Due to the intense pressure being so far underwater and other factors like hurricanes, the setup had to be very sophisticated to handle a plethora of issues. The team was able to develop the technology and set the cameras up in troubled spots in Hawaii, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. However, the team still ran into issues later on when retrieving the images. Despite setting the cameras onto manual focuses, all of the cameras became out of focus sometime when they were underwater making the footage useless. This required the team to come back together to find a way to prevent the cameras from becoming out of focus again, which was done by adding new lens to the cameras. The team then set out for new troubled locations along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia near Keppel Island and Huron Island. Fortunately for the reefs, a series of thunderstorms and a tropical cyclone brought cooler water to the region preventing a bleaching event.

Unfortunately for the team, this meant that they were not going to capture a bleaching event anytime soon. However, they received tips from residents on Lizard Island and New Caledonia that reefs in the area were undergoing a “strange event” so the teams quickly left their posts abandoning their time-lapse cameras. Instead, the time-lapse was recorded manually by having a scuba diver, like Zachary Rago, dive to the reefs every day and take pictures at several set spots everyday for several months. Rago and other divers were successfully able to obtain enough footage to show how coral bleaching destroyed the reefs within months. The footage was disheartening, but it effectively showed how coral bleaching can destroy an ecosystem in a relatively short amount of time. The documentary also concludes by stating that this is a global issue and shows videos of people all over the world sharing their experiences with coral bleaching.

Comparison photo shown in film showing a healthy reef becoming bleached.

The film ultimately states that the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels is the main culprit behind the increased mass bleaching events. Animations and illustrations were used to show how this is the case. When fossil fuels are burned, they emit a gas called carbon dioxide (CO2), one of several greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases help to keep heat trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere or otherwise the Earth would be too cold for survival. However, since there is a higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now, more heat is being deflected back to the ground. The ocean has a very high heat capacity, so this excess heat is mostly being absorbed by the oceans making them warmer. Unfortunately for coral reefs, they are not resilient to an increase in temperature so they begin to experience effects rather quickly. Raising surface ocean water temperatures 2 degrees Celsius (roughly 4 degrees Fahrenheit) can be enough to significantly impact and even kill certain reefs. Fluctuations in surface ocean water temperature is another normal natural phenomenon, but scientists feel that the recent upwards trend and the rate at which its increasing is to be blamed on greenhouse gases.

Coral Bleaching and Warming Oceans

Recorded sea surface temperatures compared to average between 1880-2015.

While coral bleaching is a natural phenomenon, the increased occurrence of widespread bleaching events in recent years has scientists all over the world worried about the future. With oceans continuing to warm on average, projections show that average surface sea temperatures could rise to the point it could support the mass extinction of coral reefs within our lifetime according to the documentary. How much sea surface temperatures will rise can be predicted and modeled, but it does not mean that they will come into fruition. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides several projections in the documentary on how much their experts believe sea surface temperatures will rise. One projects shows a linear path of rising temperatures while others show temperatures rising then leveling off at some point between now and 2100. There are many factors that can affect global sea surface temperatures, so it is not surprising that scientists cannot say for sure how much further the oceans could warm if greenhouse gases continue to be added to the atmosphere.

El Niño’s Impact?

Sea surface temperatures 2015-2016 showing strong El Niño event taking place.

The documentary also points out that in 2016, 29% of the Great Barrier Reef was killed off due to a massive coral bleaching event.  It is actually not too surprising that the Great Barrier Reef suffered so much in 2016, as a prolonged and very strong El Niño event was taking place for much of 2015 and into 2016. An El Niño occurs when warm water (usually 0.5 Celsius above average or higher) appears off the coast of Ecuador and Peru or along the equator in the Pacific Ocean usually during the winter. This warmer water impacts the global atmosphere resulting in adverse effects in different portions of the world. When an El Niño event is taking place, portions of the Northern Great Barrier Reef usually see dry and warm conditions which can aggravate coral bleaching episodes. Climate change could elevate the impacts of El Niño, but otherwise El Niño is a naturally occurring phenomenon that impacts the global sphere usually every couple years.


In conclusion, this documentary really helped me understand the issue of coral bleaching and how it can affect the human population as well. I personally knew about the issue of coral bleaching but I did not know how bad it actually was. The film is ultimately right about how this is also an issue of public knowledge and that a better way of communication is needed between scientists and the public. The organization has a website that I highly recommend checking out if you would like to get involved at:


This film can be viewed on Netflix here:

More information on El Niño:

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