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The 15 best ecological documentaries to stream right now

Watch these powerful ecological documentaries to help educate yourself on our current climate change emergency

It’s vitally important to keep climate change at the top of our agenda, more so now than ever before and one way we can do it is to ensure we are fully aware of its impact. From explorations below sea level to deep dives into the shady industries supplying our food, these climate, nature and ecological documentaries promise to educate you on the topic of global warming and inspire the positive changes we need to save our planet. Here, we round up the best to stream now.

Kiss The Ground

This powerful documentary explores the important issue of soil regeneration and its place as a compelling and effective strategy to manage our planet’s climate crisis. Exploring what it describes as ‘the first viable solution to the problem’, Kiss The Ground looks at how to turn deserts back into lush ecosystems while reversing climate change. Featuring scientists and celebrity activists, such as Ian Somerhalder, Gisele Bündchen and Patricia and David Arquette, the end result is a playbook for the urgent restoration of Planet Earth.

Available on Netflix

Before The Flood

In this sincere documentary, Leonardo DiCaprio proves his commitment to the cause by travelling around the world to witness first hand the environmental degradation that has led to global warming. As well as taking a deep-dive into our fossil fuel addiction, and asking questions around the ethics of forcing growing economies like India to give them up, Before The Flood also offers a helpful look at what can be done to help solve the climate crisis. The concluding walk-and-talk interview with then President Obama is also fascinating.

Available on YouTube

Chasing Coral

This documentary from the director of Chasing Ice is all about our disappearing coral reefs and the devastating impact that will have on our oceans. In it, a team of divers, photographers and scientists document the effects of climate change underwater, where greenhouse gases have been trapped causing a fatal two-degree increase in temperature. Today, much of our seabeds have been turned into an aquatic graveyard, where our vibrantly coloured corals have been bleached into a deathly white. A truly poignant film.

Available on Netflix

This Changes Everything

Inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller of the same name, this documentary presents seven portraits of communities on the front line of the climate emergency, from Montana’s Powder River Basic to the south coast of India. These stories are interspersed with narration from Klein herself, who examines the capitalist economic motivations causing these situations. When put together side by side, they beg the question: can confronting the climate crisis can also provide the opportunity to build a better world?

Available on YouTube

Rotten

This investigative series delves into the corruption within the global food industry, revealing the unsavoury truths and environmental impact of what we eat. The latest season focuses on six new topics, from the bottled water industry to the growing demand for cannabis edibles. But the stand out episode from the season is The Avocado War, a look at how millennial demand for the fruit led producers to source it from Michoacán, Mexico, where the trade is tied up with violence from the local cartels.

Available on Netflix

A Plastic Ocean

This documentary started off as mission to film the blue whale, the largest creature on the planet, but soon turned into an investigation into plastic pollution after journalist Craig Leeson discovered thick layer of plastic debris floating in the Indian Ocean. Alongside world record-breaking free driver Tanya Streeter, he travels the globe to report on the havoc caused by humans mass producing plastic since the 1950s. There’s now an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans – but this documentary offers important solutions to help change that.

Available on Netflix

Cowspiracy

The documentary which inspired a legion of vegans, Cowspiracy looks at the impact of animal agriculture and the way it influences environmental destruction through global warming, water wastage and deforestation. It’s a controversial watch, mainly because of the fact that in recent years, some of its assertions have been disproved, (such as its claim that 51% of all greenhouse gases are produced by the industry), but it’s well worth watching for the valid question it raises over whether we really need to be eating so much meat.

Available on Amazon Prime Video

The True Cost

Pulling back the curtain on the fashion industry, The True Cost explores the story of the clothes we wear, the people who make them and the impact they have on our world. As the price of our garments continues to drop year on year, the environmental impact has risen just as steeply. This powerful documentary asks, who pays the price for our clothing? Travelling between the world’s vibrant catwalks to its darkest slums, and punctuated by appearances from environmental influencers such as Stella McCartney, Livia Firth, Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is eye-opening viewing. 

Available on Amazon Prime Video

2040

While most environmental documentaries tend to dwell on the problems climate change causes, 2040 takes a different tact. In it, award-winning director Damon Gameau refreshingly puts the focus on the solutions already available to us to help heal the planet. Structured like a visual letter to his four-year-old daughter, whose interests he aims to protect, Gameau cleverly blends documentary footage about current technological innovations with dramatized sequences of his vision for the future in order to get his message across.

Available on iTunes

Artifishal

While many environmentalists have focussed on the negative consequences the meat industry has on the planet, the impact of following a pescatarian diet has often been overlooked. Artifishal aims to remedy that by investigating the global fisheries industry and how our taste for seafood is devastating wildlife. Focussing on wild salmon’s slide towards extinction, this documentary looks at how humans are on a path to not only endangering these fish but also themselves. Expect a film as much about humanity as conservation.

Watch it on YouTube

The Ivory Game

Exploring the corrupt global network of ivory trafficking, The Ivory Game sees undercover filmmakers infiltrate this murky world to reveal the unseen truth. Because while many countries have banned its import and trade for conservation reasons, ivory is still seen as a status symbol today in China. This has had a devastating impact on the African elephant population, which has been driven to the verge of extinction by poachers and dealers looking to profit from tusks. Now, conservationists estimate we have just 15 years left to save the species. This heart-breaking documentary is on a mission to help.

Available on Netflix

Our Planet

This multi-million dollar, Emmy award-winning docu-series is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming, but it’s undoubtedly a successful one. Filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries, it’s narrated by none other than David Attenborough – the man we’ve all come to associate with breath-taking BBC shows like Blue Planet. The difference this time is that unlike its BBC counterparts, Our Planet doesn’t shy away from the threats facing the flora and fauna it portrays, but instead chooses to shine a light on the climate emergency.

Available on Netflix

RiverBlue

Setting out on a three-year journey exploring the true level of destruction to our rivers, Canadian conservationist and international river advocate Mark Angel takes a hard look at the impact of pollution from the textile industry in this award-winning documentary. The main issue being explored here is ‘hydrocide’ – the process in which toxic chemical are dumped into our waterways by the fashion sector, killing off its inhabitants and destroying the lives of the people who live around them. Turns out, the blue colour of the affected rivers isn’t natural…

Available on vimeo

Endgame 2050

Moby teams up with environmental experts to imagine what the future might look like if we don’t change our habits in this new feature-length documentary. It offers a fictional look at three decades into the future when we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction – the only one in history to be caused by humans rather than nature. In 2050, our oceans are empty, methane gas explosions are common and our food supplies are running out, causing civil unrest across the planet. The message is simple, without a healthy, happy planet, we can’t have a healthy, happy human race, so something needs to change. Urgently.

Available on YouTube

Sea of Shadows 

Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and created by the makers of The Ivory Game, this cinematic thriller of a documentary sees undercover journalists, environmentalists, scientists and investigators team up with the Mexican navy in a last-ditch attempt to protect the vaquita porpoises – the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth. Under threat from an international crime syndicate comprising Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers poaching in their native Gulf of California, the vaquitas provide a captivating basis for this suspenseful pursuit of justice.

Available on YouTube

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