Human Footprint, By National Geographic Essay

1945 words - 8 pages

Human Footprint was a documentary about how much average Americans will consume throughout their lives. It covered everything from the diapers a child will wear to the amount of houses and cars a person will own in their lifetime. It gave the average amount consumed by each American in their lifetime, meaning some will use more of one thing, while others will use less. Certain items such as the amount of appliances and the types of food we eat were a great example of something that people probably did not realize had a huge effect on the world. While this gave great information about how much Americans really consume, it did little to address these problems. In fact, it seemed at times that they were not problems at all. The documentarian assumed that people watching would think consumption was a problem, but I am not sure that is the case with a majority of people. Another problem was the amount of time they wasted panning over the inflated amount of items consumed. Finally, they failed to challenge the viewer to change their lifestyle in even the most generically simple ways, such as using less when the opportunity comes.
First off, the documentary stated its purpose by pointing out that it would show exactly how much Americans use, consume, and waste in their lifetime. The way the amounts of certain actions, such as showering, were portrayed was humorous to almost ludicrous. While it was funny to use little rubber ducks to show how many showers a person takes in their lifetime it was ludicrous that they felt they had to show a long river like formation built with all of the ducks. This was an effective strategy at first. However, as they went from pints of milk to loaves of bread it began to seem a little redundant. Taking a few minutes to pan over these objects was a good way to show the amount, but after a while it seemed like a waste of time. By trying to keep it fun and interesting, they created dull representations of a really serious problem. They also used inflated numbers at times, going with the smallest unit possible in order have large numbers. For instance, in showing the amount of milk a person drinks they used pints instead of gallons. This is a tactic that average people can spot and tend to think they are being coerced or someone is pulling a guilt trip on them. Then when this tactic is used over and over it kind of sends the message that a single person can’t really make a difference. That is to say that when something seems so horrible people tend to think there is no point in changing because even if one person breaks the bad habit everyone else will still be doing it. It is a form of the popular dilemma of the tragedy of the commons developed by Garret Hardin (Hardin). The tragedy of commons has people acting in their own self interest knowing that they cannot sustain their actions long-term, but are forced to deplete all resources due to someone else benefiting from them not benefiting. This movie also assumes that the...

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