Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography

The key element of life on Earth, it has the power to build and destroy.
Available on CBC Gem

Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography

Nature of Things

Carbon tax. Carbon footprint. Carbon emissions. Carbon is in the news every day, so you’d think we’d know everything about it — but you’d be wrong. Carbon could be the most misunderstood element on earth.

In Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography, a documentary from The Nature of Things, world-renowned scientists explore the element’s story, from its role in the origin of life to today’s fossil fuels. The experts contemplate modern industry and the age of plastics and reveal how, by harnessing carbon’s chemical flexibility, we built our world.

Actor Sarah Snook (Succession) provides the voice for carbon in this epic saga. Born inside a star, the element sparked the earliest life forms and rode the journey of evolution. And in plants, together with the sun’s energy, it’s converted into simple sugars through photosynthesis, fuelling the planet and keeping our atmosphere in delicate balance.

But as we continue to liberate vast underground stores of carbon to power our lives — and thereby release it into the atmosphere — we’re discovering carbon’s dark side: it may enable life but it can also destroy it.

Bruce Alcock’s animation and Jonathan Kawchuk’s striking score provide the backdrop for carbon’s complex story, told by the likes of astrophysicists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Tamara Davis, climate scientists Katharine Hayhoe and Will Steffen, and forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.

We meet a new generation of carbon-capture scientists, forest guardians and renewables entrepreneurs making peace with carbon and finding places to hide it.

Illuminating and eccentric, Carbon: The Unauthorized Biography will change how you think of life’s core element.