________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover The End of Evolution.

Tom Radford (Director). Joe MacDonald, Tom Radford, Melissa Ruckmick & Michael Scott (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
46 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9101 020

Subject Headings:
Biological diversity.
Species diversity.
Extinction (Biology).
Ward, Peter-Video recordings.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

Extinction is "the end of evolution" for a species, and twice in Earth's history, mass extinctions have caused the death of over 50% of existing species. Natural catastrophes -- volcanic eruption and an asteroid crash - have caused these disasters. The End of Evolution begins with an aerial view of New York, (an unintentional irony, given recent events), and, as we view the skyline of one of the world's most densely populated cities, the narrator warns of an impending third extinction. This one, however, will be caused by man's devastation of the environment.

     This "third event" is the prediction of Dr. Peter Ward, a paleontologist who studies the earth's fossil records, "the graveyard of mass extinction." The video takes us to digs in South Africa, Hawaii, and Alberta, where we see the evidence of previous extinctions, as well as the rapid disappearance of numerous species in the last century. Ward hypothesizes that the current high levels of carbon dioxide emissions and other atmospheric pollutants are creating conditions similar to those of the first and second events of extinction. Global warming and cataclysmic climate change have happened before, and similar conditions appear to be developing now. Unless humankind takes steps to protect the ecosystems in which both small and great organisms live and flourish, the third event is inevitable.

     The End of Evolution offers a sobering look at the consequence of man's impact on the environment. Ward and the many other scientists interviewed in the course of this video present their case clearly and convincingly; it is provocative without being stridently alarmist. The video would probably find its most effective use in upper-level courses in ecology and biology; a basic understanding of evolutionary theory and the concepts of ecosystems and biodiversity are necessary underpinnings of Ward's theory. For this reason, I strongly recommend that prospective purchasers preview the video before purchase for a school or divisional video library, and that science teachers be invited to participate in the preview process. The video might be a bit advanced for some school audiences.

     Nevertheless, The End of Evolution is a quality production and certainly worth acquiring as a supplementary resource for senior high school science courses.


Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364