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Injecting an essential sense of wonder into his catalog of social and environmental tragedies, Mr. Arthus-Bertrand circles the skyscrapers of Dubai and plunges into the Grand Canyon, his high-definition cameras clinging to helicopters. Skimming feed lots and parking lots, he shows us an irrigation system resembling a giant game of Twister and blasted soil the color and texture of raw meat. These geographical wounds, we are told, originate from a lifestyle that “destroys the essential to produce the superfluous” — an accusation that the film’s bankrollers, led by the corporation behind luxury brands like Balenciaga and Gucci, are probably familiar with — but their far-below beauty is fatally distancing. As a result, gazing down on what we have wrought feels less like a rap on the knuckles and more like a pat on the head.
We are living in exceptional times. Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate.