The back-story of carbon

March 7, 2022
Carbon's place in the Periodic Table is explained in 'Carbon: The unauthorised biography'
Carbon's place in the Periodic Table is explained in 'Carbon: The unauthorised biography'

Carbon: The unauthorised biography
Directed by Daniella Ortega and Niobe Thompson.
In cinemas March 31, to be broadcast on ABC Television

Australians, terrorised by both bushfires and floods, are now painfully aware of the effects of global heating caused by carbon pollution in the atmosphere.

This documentary, a joint effort of the ABC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and independent filmmakers, explains complex science in plain language, with the aim of enabling diverse audiences to understand carbon’s fundamental role in the vital issues of energy, climate and survival.

It demonstrates that carbon is not something to be villainised, but rather to be recognised as an essential and versatile constituent of all life.  It is not carbon, but the profit-driven super-exploitation of carbon in fossil fuels and deforestation that is disrupting the natural cycles that keep the climate in healthy balance.

The filmmakers hope that in anthropomorphising carbon, casting the element as a female and telling “her” life from the time when carbon formed in the early stars after the Big Bang, they can foster a sense of connection, and encourage audiences to take meaningful action.

Talking-head grabs of scientists, most of whom are women, serves the dual purpose of educating the audience and encouraging girls to get involved in science.  Animations with actor Sarah Snook as carbon’s voice complement the experts in explaining how carbon came to form the building blocks of life.

It is a fascinating story, which becomes devastatingly compelling when the effects of atmospheric pollution are discussed. Carbon is essential to the creation and sustenance of all living things, but the disrupted carbon cycle is now threatening human civilisation and life on the planet.

This film will be of use to science educators and the widest possible audience, because it communicates well and entertainingly. The film’s ultimate message is that climate change is the most important matter confronting the human race and it calls each of us to urgent action.

With our prime minister (the man who carried a lump of coal into parliament), leading a government that spends $12 billion of public funds a year propping up coal, gas and oil corporations, this film is a must-see before the next federal election.

[The trailer for Carbon: The unauthorised biography can be seen here.]

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