Antarctica is perhaps the most unique continent on Earth. Bitterly cold and long considered uninhabitable, the region is also ground zero for an environmental crisis which only amplifies with the passage of time. With the help of assorted geophysicists, scientists and ornithologists, the documentary The Antarctica Challenge attempts to piece together the mountains of evidence which suggest that warming temperatures and rising sea levels have not only changed the face of the icy continent, but threaten life and land all across the world.
For many years, scientists have recorded record high temperatures in the region, and spelled out the very real threats of the resulting glacial melting. Rising sea levels could spell doom for most of the planet’s coastal cities, setting off a string of events which may likely decimate infrastructure, produce ever increasing human casualties, and inspire greater occurrences of severe weather conditions such as tsunamis and hurricanes.
Some of these effects can already be witnessed in Antarctica’s animal kingdom. Penguins have been forced to seek out higher ground, and the warmer water temperatures are killing off their main food source of krill. Enhanced exposure to sun’s ultraviolet rays is blinding the area’s seal population, starfish are unable to reproduce, and even the common fly is in danger of extinction.
Does the human race have the power to affect change in Antarctica and, in turn, save the rest of the world from assured environmental catastrophe? The film points to the Montreal Protocol as a prime example of man’s capacity to promote a reversal of these conditions. Enacted in 1987 as a coordinated effort amongst most of the international community, the agreement called for a vast reduction of the substances which cause ozone layer depletion. Since that time, scientists have observed a stagnation in the ozone’s deterioration, and some even claim the process may be reversing itself.
The Antarctica Challenge is an enlightening lesson in the ongoing global warming conversation. While the situation is dire, and the results of inaction are perilous, the film leaves us with an inspirational message that each of us can play a role in charting the survival of our planet.