Encounters at Santa Monica and Sawtelle, by David Bax
I saw Werner Herzog’s new documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, at the Nuart yesterday. The film is about the people who live and work in Antarctica and the work they do. So the titular end of the world is the geographic one. As it turns out, though, the name has a another, quite intentional, meaning. There is a fatalistic undercurrent of dread about the future of mankind on this planet and what we have done to our climate.
Someday, we are going to have to face the very likely possibility that humanity’s fate will be ultimately no different than that of the dinosaurs. In school, they always made of point of telling you how small the dinosaurs’ brains had been in comparison to ours. I think this is an attempt to reassure ourselves, to insist that, though the dinosaurs ruled the world much as we had, we were equipped with the tools necessary to make it last.
Sadly, this is probably just wishful thinking. Mankind will expire and, like the late George Carlin said, the world will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. The only question that remains is, where on the arc are we now? Have we crossed the apex and begun our descent?
If we have, then is there any point to the massive base for scientific experiments located in Antarctica? Is there any point to science at all now? Why continue to educate ourselves? Why put your foot on the accelerator when you’re approaching a red light?
Because, in my opinion, that’s what we’re here for. That’s the elusive meaning of life. We evolved further than any other creature because of our hunger to educate and enlighten ourselves and we can leave our mark on this planet by trying to make it and ourselves better right up to the last moment.
So I’m glad that people are down at the end of the world, trying to learn more about what we’ve done to it and how it will undo us. I’m also glad, for all the same reasons listed above, that people like Werner Herzog continue to make films in spite of their fatalism.