What Is It That Makes Us Human?

Published on by Nika Zobec

A simple question. Yet, the answers to this can differ from person to person.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a French environmentalist, and artist had been trying to find just that. Knowing that it is impossible to understand the world without the voices of people, he spent 3 years with his crew of 20, interviewing over 2000 people in 60 countries.

Together, they created HUMAN.

The documentary is a collection of real-life stories of people from around the world along with aerial footage of earth. The film covers a wide range of topics, such as environment, consumerism, family, homosexuality, religion, poverty, war and more.

Everyone is Deeply Connected

In the film, the interviewees’ faces are presented on a plain black background. They talk about their utmost happiness and deepest pain -all the while staring directly into our eyes. And even though we don’t know them personally, each one of them feels so intimate, honest, and powerful.

Inclusivity is a big part of this documentary. Different genders, races, and religions are given a space to speak for themselves. Every message is powerful on its own, whether it's the kind that makes you laugh or cry. Each person’s life story is so different, yet they all convey one message:

We are not THAT different. We are all in the quest for more peace and love. After all, we are all just HUMAN.

The Earth is Strong. The Earth is Fragile.

The film shares some spectacular aerial footage of earth. In comparison to the rich human emotion, the earth from above looks so calm, not-changing, and almost religiously beautiful. However, the film does not only show the good part. It also includes some deeply upsetting scenes, such as polluted lands and humongous mountains of trash.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand used impeccable cinematography as a way to deliver this huge warning. It shows that our home is strong, but also very fragile. The earth is the carrier of our culture, our life, and our being. We are all in this together. And in order to stay in this beautiful place longer, we should put more efforts into what we can do FOR it, instead of solely focusing on what we can get FROM it. ‘Sustainability’ should be seen as a dynamic, on-going process that takes part in our daily life.

Leading environmentalist, Paul Hawken, puts it beautifully when he writes about how we treat each other and our planet are all interconnected,
“A Native American taught me that the division between ecology and human rights was an artificial one, that the environmental and social justice movements addressed two sides of a single larger dilemma. The way we harm the earth affects all people, and how we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.”

Can There Be a Better Way to End Our Year? Or Start a New One?

The fact is that WE are not so different. We all are just HUMAN and we all share the same HOME. That is planet EARTH.

HUMAN is bound to leave you touched. But more importantly so, hopeful and inspired.

"It is too late to be pessimistic. We are all part of the solutions."


And that is what we all need going forward to a brand new year.

Join us at the screening of HUMAN on 12 December 2019, Green Initiatives' 112th documentary screening, also our last screening of the year. We will also be joined by TBird Luv, an inspiring multitalented, transformative artist, coach, facilitator, and mentor, for post-film discussion.

Tbird is also a motivational speaker and a much sought-after musician who has performed at stages such as The Global Summit, TEDxShanghai, and San Francisco, FEMTalks, Foxconn Xinzheng, Success 3.0, El Cumbre Tajin Festival, Lightening in A Bottle Festival, YerbaBuena Center for The Arts SF and Jazz at Lincoln Center New York.

  • When: Thursday, 12th December 2019 | 19:00-21:00
  • Where: EF | Education First,  258 Tongren Road, Near Yuyuan Road, Shanghai
  • Metro: Jingan Temple, Line 2 & 7, Exit 6
  • Entry Fee: ¥50RMB for registered guests, ¥70RMB At-the-Door (snacks, fruits and beverages included)

The article was written by Green Initiatives contributing writer Daphne Tai. Connect with Daphne on LinkedIn.