The film investigates the causes, reality, and effects of global warming and its threat to mankind's existence on Earth. Surviving Extinction contrasts the pervasive cradle to grave approach to manufacturing, in which being manufactured, used and discarded is a products life-cycle with a cradle to cradle approach to manufacturing in which a product has multiple lives through recycling. The environmental impact of a cradle to grave product is measured from its production through its use to its disposal, including the impact of adding to landfills all over the world. In a cradle to cradle philosophy, the same product impact is examined and the environmental benefits of reuse through recycling a product in multiple forms is explored.
In addition to exploring landfill impacts, Surviving Extinction investigates the impact of trash on our oceans, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge collection of plastic garbage two times the size of the state of Texas. The plastic trash, from items such plastic water and beverage containers, has collected through a vortex of ocean currents, and the floating collection is endangering fish, turtles, other sea creatures and ecology of the seas.