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Film series looks at wildlife, wilderness ethics

What if there were no more fish in the oceans and rivers of the world? Would people starve to death by the millions?

Questions such as this one will be addressed in the spring 2011 Bioethics in Film Series at Arizona State University.

Once again, Andrew Smith, a professor in the School of Life Sciences, is opening his film series to the public to share in the discussion.

This semester, the series is titled “Wildlife and Wilderness Values,” and it begins on Feb. 10 with the film “The Cove.” The film will be shown at 5:40 p.m., in Life Sciences E-106 on the Tempe campus.

“The Cove” is the story of a group of activists who, using state-of-the-art equipment infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan, to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health. The group is led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry. (MPAA Rating: PG-13).

On March 3, at the same time and in the same place, “The End of the Line” will be shown. “The End of the Line” is the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. It chronicles the effects of our global love affair with fish as food, the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish, and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation. (MPAA Rating: PG-13.)

On March 31, same time and place, the film will be “Varmints.”

This film is a powerful, engaging and surprisingly humorous exposé of the strained relations between people and wildlife (prairie dogs) in the American West. “Varmit” has been called the “'Schindler's List' of wildlife documentaries. (MPAA Rating: NR.)

“Grizzly Man” concludes the showings, at 5:40 p.m., April 14, also in LS E-106.

“Grizzly Man” is a devastating and heartrending documentary on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska. (MPAA Rating: R.)

“Wildlife and Wilderness Values” was chosen as the spring theme, according to Smith because, “above and beyond important, direct and indirect economic reasons for preserving biodiversity and maintaining wilderness – what ethical values do we attach to these issues?

“How do we value nature? The four films this semester examine cases where ethical values play a central role. Through these films, assigned readings, and lively discussion both in class and online, we will explore our personal connections with nature, and how these values can play a role in defining contemporary issues surrounding wildlife and wilderness.”

The Bioethics in Film series was started by Jason Robert. Smith said the series has had various themes, but all of an ethical nature.

“For example, last semester the theme was organ transplants, and often the theme is of a biomedical nature.”

Smith, a President's Professor and Parents Association Professor and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, said he expects the series this semester to again be well-received and attended, particularly since each of the showings is open to the public.

For more information about the series, call (480) 965-8927.