Some people like to go on TV and complain about climate change while doing nothing more than collecting a big fat paycheck and a few votes. Then there are those who have nothing by way of money or notoriety yet are actually doing something about it. Such is the story of Russian geophysicist Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita in Luke Griswold-Tergis’ documentary Pleistocene Park.
Pleistocene Park is located in Siberia (Northern Russia). Millenia ago, it was once the home of the great Wooly Mammoth, and now it has no wildlife and sparse vegetation. With the recently increased levels of carbon dioxide, it’s evident that the region’s permafrost is melting faster than expected. Permafrost is a frozen layer of earth that contains high concentrations of carbon dioxide, which will be eventually released into the atmosphere as it melts.
Realizing that the geological clock is ticking, Zimov decides that something needs to be done, and he isn’t going to wait for bureaucrats to make it happen. His incredibly ambitious mission is to restore the Ice Age “mammoth steppe” ecosystem to Pleistocene Park in hopes that it will reverse the damage being done to the permafrost. The solution is “simple” and would make Noah proud. Bring thousands of formerly indigenous wildlife back to the region, which includes bison, oxen, and reindeer, as a way to restore a missing piece to restart the ecological cycle. Pleistocene Park documents Zimov’s heroic journey to accomplish this feat.
“…ambitious mission is to restore the Ice Age ‘mammoth steppe’ ecosystem…”
First, let’s start with Sergey and Nikita Zimov. I’ve never met a geophysicist, but I’d imagine they don’t look like Sergey. Then again, maybe they do. He is a down-to-earth gentleman who loves the land and has a brilliant mind about the environment. He also has a charismatic and infectious personality — perfect for any documentary. Nikita is just as concerned as his father and does much of the heavy physical lifting. However, he’s probably the most pragmatic of the pair.
Pleistocene Park is comprised mainly of Sergey and Nikita Zimov’s efforts to procure wildlife, primarily bison, and transport them to Pleistocene Park. The challenges are numerous, and their travels are fraught with rough terrain, equipment breakdowns, lack of money, and animals with a mind of their own. Bison are delicate creatures, and the act of transporting them is rife with dangers for the creatures. If you’ve ever owned a fish tank, you know what I mean. Once bison are found, the pair have to deal with the people who have them, and striking deals are never easy nor guaranteed. At one point, someone sold them only males, which was disastrous.
Lastly, as much as they kept the Russian government out of the process, the sole purpose of every government is to foil the plans of the well-intentioned. This leads to a bit of preaching, maybe education is the better term, regarding the effects climate change has on the earth. Being in Siberia, Zimov warns us of the much more significant threat of anthropogenic carbon emissions, and he knows the calvary is not coming. Action must be taken now.
Watching Pleistocene Park is like watching two evil geniuses executing a plan so crazy that it might just work. Also, considering this is Siberia, the landscape is beautiful even though it is a shell of what it once was. Personally, I don’t know if the father/son duo are wasting their time, but their passion and determination are enough to inspire anyone to sacrifice their present “good life” for the sake of the future.
For screening information about Pleistocene Park, visit the Java Films website.
"…like watching two evil geniuses executing a plan so crazy that it might just work."