I’m obsessed with documentaries, especially ever since opening a Netflix account. Whether I’m bored, lazy, hungover, curious, happy, sad – no matter what mood I’m feeling – documentaries seem to suit my needs. I don’t fall in love with every doc I watch, but when I watch one that affects me to my core – changes the way I view and interact with the world- I wouldn’t trade that eye opening experience for anything.
It can be painful to learn about the world, but it’s always worth it. Ignorance is not bliss – ignorance is a wasted life. So here are 9 documentaries (in no particular order) that helped me wake up and change the way I eat, shop, and think.
1. Expedition Borneo – This is a docu-series that I binge-watched in eighth grade. It’s about a team of explorers trying to find evidence of Borneo’s rare species in effort to get the land protected from palm oil plantations. I will never forget this documentary because it was the beginning of my tree-hugging way of life. I remember waiting for my older sister to pick me up so we could have a sleepover at her new condo, but she was extremely late and this was the only seemingly-interesting thing on TV. From the first episode, I was hooked. I couldn’t believe the beauty and diversity of Borneo’s rain forest, and I was horrified at what was happening to it. For a while, I avoided foods with palm oil until the ingredient was in virtually every processed food. Thankfully, I have a lot more self control in my adult years.
2. The True Cost – Our shopping habits have serious consequences for people and the environment. I had heard of sweatshops before, but it’s easy to create an alternate reality in mind – where sweatshops are rare, conditions aren’t that bad, and the impact on the environment is minimal- when the actual reality of the fashion industry remains hidden from public view. There’s much more to the fashion industry than glamorous pictures and lit up runways, and this documentary shows you all of it. Fast fashion is a serious obsession that’s destroying lives and our environment. This documentary has forever changed the products I buy and the way I shop.
3. Half the Sky – This documentary (it’s also a book – I recommend reading and watching!) will bring you tears and make you smile from ear to ear. It does not sugarcoat the hardships women all over the world are forced to face, such as abuse, oppression, childbirth, and sex slavery. Through one-on-one interviews, research studies, and success stories, this documentary reveals the struggle women face and the benefits of promoting equality. Celebrities such as Olivia Wilde, America Ferrera, and Eva Mendes are featured, which highlights the fact that no matter who you are or what you do, we all share a common humanity. Half the Sky was named after the Chinese proverb: “Women hold up half the sky,” and by the time you are finished watching, you’ll realize the powerful truth of that saying.
4. Forks Over Knives – This documentary clearly explains the connection between food and health. I took notes as I watched, because it was jam-packed with information and inspirational quotes. This documentary is a great motivator if you’re trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
5. Cowspiracy – If you haven’t watched this documentary yet… what the hell are you doing with your life? Kip Andersen is as hot as our climate right now. Kidding aside, this documentary reveals the horrific environmental damage the animal agriculture has on our environment.
6. What the Health – Ah, another great one with Kip. This documentary reveals the financial ties many non-profit “health” organizations have to unhealthy, processed food & drink companies. It shows how powerful of a medicine a plant-based diet can be, and will make you immediately want to throw out all the shit in your kitchen and eat every vegetable of the world.
7. Blackfish – I always considered myself an “animal lover”, which is exactly why I went to zoos and aquariums to see my beloved beings. This documentary woke me the fuck up and made me put myself in the animals’ captive shoes, for once. Captivity is cruel and it kills. Enough said.
8. Earthlings – This one is extremely hard to get through, but if you consume meat, dairy, wear animal skins (leather, fur, wool), or watch movies that use live animals, why not see where all these products come from? If you can’t watch the undercover imagery, than why are you supporting these industries with your money?
9. Chasing Coral – I will never look at coral the same way again – it’s an AMAZING species. This documentary explains how climate change is affecting our oceans and destroying coral reefs. It made me extremely sad, but more motivated than ever to reduce my carbon footprint. Bottom line: imagine what happens to your body when its temperature raises two degrees – you get a fever and feel like death. That is what happens to our oceans when it raises two degrees, expect worse – the coral dies. This is horrible because coral reefs are basically the rain forests of the ocean – without them, millions of species are screwed.
We can all do better. These documentaries are a great place to start. The world is bigger than you and your desires – we’re all trying to fill some sort of void, and unfortunately many people try to fill it with profit, money, materialistic objects. Try filling it with love, with nature, memories, and conviction. We all have an impact on this earth and its beings – tread lightly, live simply.