One of the least-discussed environmental issues of the current era is the mass extinction of plants, animals, insects and other forms of life on Earth. Peak oil, dwindling clean water supplies, recycling/garbage, and transportation get far more coverage and debate at dinner parties and front pages. Maybe it’s because human beings are inherently such a selfish species, and the latter issues affect us more directly, but there aren’t many people making a fuss about rapidly disappearing plant and animal species outside of animal advocacy organizations. At this point, we have no idea how these losses will impact us or the planet, only that they are happening; and as the famous poster reminds us, "Extinct is Forever." It is likely that the plants, animals and insects that we are losing because of habitat destruction, global warming and hunting not only have the right to exist, but could also benefit human beings — medically or otherwise — in the future. But we'll never know. 
It takes a model and activist with a serious scientific background to draw attention to the issue, and if anyone fits that bill, it’s Summer Rayne Oakes, who has co-created (and stars in) the short film "eXtinction" to shed light on this issue using visual imagery, beautiful music and alarming statistics. Using her own life as a timeline, she details the magnitude of species loss that has happened over the last 20 or so years, and extrapolates into the future; for anyone near her age, it's not hard to understand how the stats would apply to your life. I asked Summer about the film, which is currently making the festival circuit. (You can go to the film's Tumblr page for updated details.) 



MNN: Your movie tackles the mass extinction of species due to human action, which is similar in magnitude to geologically important events like the Permian or the K-T (which saw the demise of the dinosaurs). Many people don't know this is happening. Is this your way of drawing attention to this issue? Of all environmental topics to tackle visually, why this one? 
Summer Rayne Oakes: The film humanizes loss. It gives the viewer a way to contextualize the speed of ecosystem degradation by giving us a chilling reminder of our own mortality. It is my hope that the film will touch the viewer's soul by highlighting that which is most vulnerable.


You and your collaborators chose a simple storyline and arresting visuals for this short film. Why? 
It is the combination of striking moving images, timeless music, and a powerful message that gives the viewer of this film a spiritual experience. It is meant to be concise and direct; It neither indulges in excessive pedantry nor proselytizes an environmental ideology. It simply reveals the beauty of our natural world and what we stand to lose within a lifetime. 


Was there any information you wish made it into the film that didn't? 
I originally had more examples that didn't make it into the film, but I think we had all that we needed to clearly articulate our message.


What is your hope for the outcome/influence of "eXtinction"? 
Quite simply — to move people, to give us [the viewers] a way to feel human again, to be reconnected with the wonderful potential and eternal limitations of our species. Maybe it will even inspire some of us to action. What form of action? How far must we go to curb this loss? That is for all of us to figure out.


Are you planning on or interested in making more films on environmental topics going forward? 
"'eXtinction" is very personal for me — it is something of a cinematic glimpse of my soul — while also being an impassioned public service announcement for Planet Earth. The process of making it inspired me. And it has deeply moved those who have had the chance to see it. Given this outcome, of course I will do another film!


Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images