Soil Health Has A Blackfish Problem

Why Redesigning our Farm System Can’t Be All About the Soil

Sarah Mock

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You know Tilikum, right? That’s the blackfish.

First of all, I’ll be the first to say, I love Blackfish. It’s a murder mystery where super-smart, charismatic sea mammals are both the perpetrators and the victims.

I first watched it in a student theater in South Africa approximately 1 million years ago, and I can still remember the goose bumps I got when I first heard the line, “when you look into their eyes, you know somebody is home.” What a subtle indictment of both the trainer-killing whales, and of ourselves, for keeping these creatures “of great spiritual power,” who are not something, but someone, in torturous captivity.

If you haven’t watched Blackfish but are interested in killer whales, marine animal parks, human relations with ocean mammals, or the extent to which workers are not valued in the modern workplace, you should definitely check it out. It is truly, as Variety’s movie critic wrote, “a mesmerizing psychological thriller.”

Blackfish is more than a juicy one-off documentary. It was, for nearly 8 years, the most watched nature documentary on Netflix, with millions tuning in to watch it monthly. Rare is the documentary that can find that kind of traction, in part, I think, because rare is the non-fiction issue that achieves wide relevancy without tremendous backlash.

Arguably, however, Blackfish achieved its wide viewership not because it was widely relevant, or even because it wasn’t. It’s watched and rewatched and talked about and shared for three simple reasons; its plot is familiar, its perpetrators and victims are distant and abstract, and its call to action is easy.

The plot point is the most obvious, even the trailer above. Blackfish is, in truth, a true crime documentary, where a file slowly fills up with evidence that for a time seems to implicate the obvious killer (the whale), but in the end, reveals that though the whale did the deed, the fault lies with the greedy fat cats at these animal parks and their slippery, seedy lawyers. We know this plot; we know its pacing, its twists and turns, and…

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Sarah Mock

Author of Farm (and Other F Words), buy now: https://tinyurl.com/4sp2a5tb. Rural issues and agriculture writer/researcher. Not a cheerleader, not the enemy.