When man tries to play God, things don’t ever go as planned. While we humans have made significant advancements in the world of science and technology, we have a tendency to take it too far in the name of progress. The “more is more” attitude is one usually tied to individualistic Western cultures, namely Americans, and what results from our desire to become number one is usually a trail of ignorance, destruction, and cover-ups that, regardless of any project’s original intention, harm more than help in the long run. FrankenSkies, a documentary that explores the history and effects of geoengineering around the world, gives viewers a peek into what happens when governments try to reign supreme.
Now, I have to be frank: this film is quite biased and does feel a little out there at some points — the YouTube channel I ended up finding it on was called “Unmatrix Yourself.” However, FrankenSkies does put together a cohesive and easy-to-follow timeline that outlines how geoengineering transformed from a few experiments in the early 20th century that were meant to find ways to create a new water resource in the United States to what’s now a potentially dangerous (and money-driven) solution to climate change. There isn’t really a narrator for the film; instead, the film compiles various clips of speeches, interviews, and articles that point out that there’s a lot the average American might not know about the relationship between geoengineering and contrails (also referred to as chemtrails).
The documentary starts in the 1930s with an old video detailing some of the early research into creating snowstorms. They started in a home freezer unit and used pieces of dry ice to mirror what happens naturally when it snows, just on a smaller scale. Then, the experiment was taken to the skies as researchers added dry ice to a small dispenser in the plane, where they ultimately figured out they could manually create snowstorms. In the 1940s, Project Cirrus followed. Part of this project involved an experiment where the intention was to see what happened when cloud seeding (a term coined by earlier researchers where clouds are artificially created) on a hurricane happening off the southeast coast of the United States.
It’s suggested that this experiment, which potentially changed the course of the hurricane, caused record-breaking winds in Savannah, Georgia, leaving over 1,000 people homeless and resulting in the death of two people.
Project Cirrus was found to be at fault, and the experiments were cancelled. It’s also suggested that a similar project in the UK called Project Cumulus was at fault for a flooding in a small British town, as cloud seeding experiments were also going on the day of the floods.
These early experiments made way for larger tests that essentially were conducted to see if we could control the weather. “He who controls the weather will control the world,” said Lyndon B Johnson in a graduation address to Southwest Texas State University in 1962. The sentiment holds true: in theory, if you were able to control the weather, you could effectively create natural disasters around the world and take down enemies without anyone knowing.
The documentary follows these projects through the 1950s and 60s, and eventually comes to one of the more infamous cloud seeding moments in history: the American use of Agent Orange against the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. The harmful effects of the chemical’s use has been connected as a causation for numerous birth defects in both the American and Vietnamese generations that were born after the war. Veteran’s Affairs even has a link on their website that addresses whether or not certain people can qualify for disability benefits because of exposure to the chemical.
This historical moment alone would arguably be enough for many people to be afraid of seeing contrails in the sky today, and rightfully so.
If a chemical can be weaponized and so easily distributed without anyone’s knowledge, what’s to stop it from being used for more sinister reasons during non-war periods?
FrankenSkies presents this question as it follows a more recent push to use this method of cloud seeding to combat climate change. The term used for this new method is called geoengineering, and it refers to the human intervention in the earth’s natural climate system to slow down global warming. While it seems to be a quicker way to slow down the effects of climate change, it poses its own risks and dangers to the natural world — as reported by Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, Carbon Brief, and other outlets in addition to the documentary. It basically tries to fight the deterioration of the planet’s ecosystem by adding more chemicals into the air (some of which are already known to be harmful to humans and the environment).
Even if not everyone is fully on board with what the documentary talks about, most people (including those who made this film) would agree on one thing: don’t believe everything you read. The main point of this film outside of discussing the government’s murky relationship with geoengineering is to question everything, including what your own government presents as facts. Do your own research when it comes to what is happening in politics. Vet your sources, listen to scientists, and take action when necessary.
Logan Cross is a writer, editor, and dancer based in Los Angeles who enjoys fictional podcasts and rejecting her friends’ request to learn TikTok dances.