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    The Most Important Environmental Documentaries of Our Time

    5 min read

    By Rupert Shanks, Chief Storyteller
    More by Rupert

    A good documentary can enlighten and entertain.

    A great documentary can inspire us to be better. We’ve compiled our team’s favourite 5 environmental documentaries.

    Chasing Coral

    In this director’s earlier film, Chasing Ice, he managed to communicate the sheer scale and speed of retreating glaciers and the melting of the ice caps. These kinds of images have become synonymous with climate change to us. However, the changing climate is changing ecosystems all over the planet. One area often unconsidered is under the sea. This beautiful film captures the vitality and importance of coral to the planet while at the same time highlighting the speed of change in which vast areas of coral are dying. The technical timelapse film work underwater is so impressive but never overshadows the heart of the story and the passion of the characters involved.

    Watch on Netflix.

    Learn about the impact of this film here.


    Virunga tells the story of one of Africa’s most pressing environmental issues – the conflict between development and conservation. Virunga National Park in Eastern Congo is one of the world’s most bio-diverse regions and is home to some of the few remaining Mountain Gorillas. This remarkable film charts the struggle between the passionate team working to secure safety and stability in the park, the dark external forces looking to plunder natural resources and the conflict between rebel group M23 and local armed militia.

    Watch on Netflix.

    Plastic Ocean

    Some of the Wilderness Team were so affected by this film that they arranged a number of local screenings so that the community here in Aviemore in the Highlands could also see it. Since then the team have invested part of our community conservation fund into buying and installing a SeaBin to help remove plastic from the west coast of Scotland! Read more about this project here.

    This film is profoundly affecting and such a wake-up call for the damage but ease of single-use plastics. The good thing is that the world is waking up to this and the film is a great stepping stone to greater awareness and better choices.

    Watch on Netflix.

    Jumbo Wild

    Unlike many brands, Patagonia clothing manage to incorporate conservation issues and storytelling as part of their communication in a genuine way. This moving documentary about the struggle to protect a vast and wild region in British Colombia resonates with anyone who has felt connected to wild open spaces. As a tourism company working in Scotland’s wilderness, it’s an ongoing question we have to ask ourselves, how do we enjoy these wild places without risking our impact becoming irreversible?

    Watch on Vimeo.


    Cowspiracy, although a few years old now, tackled one of the world’s biggest climate change causing issues head on. Our taste for farmed meat. Sometimes it feels our own individual actions are so insignificant in relation to the massive changes that are needed. However, Cowspiracy shows how even small changes like reducing our red meat consumption can have a significant effect.

    Watch on Netflix.

    Meet the Author: Rupert Shanks

    “After a spell in the corporate world in London Rupert decided to find a more rewarding way of life involving a closer connection to the outdoors and to his camera! Rupert produces a lot of the photography and video for Wilderness Scotland and works within the Marketing team.”

    View profileMore by Rupert

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