As I’m sure most of you are aware, a brand new David Attenborough series has recently aired on Netflix titled Our Planet. Thankfully I was able to watch all eight episodes over the weekend and oh my, if you haven’t seen the series then I beg you to go and watch them immediately! As usual with these sorts of things, warning for the spoilers ahead. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past month or so, below is a trailer ofOur Planet so that you’ve got an idea of what sort of thing to expect.
First off, the series itself has been produced without any agenda – most nature documentaries tend to try to paint the natural world as a picturesque landscape where everything is happy and fun. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Nature is a vicious battle ground where species are literally fighting to stay alive to pass their genes onto the next generation. There are of course the effects that us as humans have inflicted on the natural world too: climate change, habitat loss, over-exploitation and the list goes on. Although these elements are shown in some of the episodes, after watching Blue Planet II I was expecting there to be more pulling of the heart strings in order to change the public’s perceptions as to how their day-to-day life is affecting the natural world.
The first episode ‘One Planet’ is more of an overview of what’s to come and sets the scene like any other Attenborough series. From here, the episodes can be watched in any order and I feel that the same impact would be achieved – with some species overlapping between episodes such as humpback whales and mobula rays. This familiarity with the species as well as the habitats, allows the series to be as viewer friendly as possible whilst still delivering a strong conservation message.
If you do what I did and watched the 2nd episode titled ‘Frozen Worlds’ in sequence, you best get the tissues ready. The poles are warming faster than anywhere else on the planet and this is having drastic effects on charismatic species such as polar bears (which has been well documented). What I was not prepared for was watching thousands of walruses marooned on a tiny island, stampeding and crushing each other to death. To make matters worse, some walruses climb high cliffs to escape this ruckus – a height of 80 metres. A 1 tonne walrus isn’t built for such a climb and in desperation to return to the ocean, they throw themselves down the cliff – to their death. To me, this was the most moving sequence in the entire series and I was totally unprepared for it, despite a warning from a close friend.
Over the following episodes, there are further stark warnings from Attenborough. The episode ‘Jungles’ highlights the loss of rainforest around the world as our demand for palm oil and other such crops increases – driving species into smaller and smaller fragments of available habitat. Despite the somewhat depressing images highlighting that over half of the world’s animals have been lost within one human generation, there is some hope! The 4th episode ‘Coastal Seas’ is the strongest contender for this – showing us how we can managed and protect the oceans in order to reverse the declines that we ourselves have caused.
It’s clear that the collaboration that sees Netflix, Sir David Attenborough and the WWF partner up has been a long time coming. The filmmakers employed over 600 crew members and captured more than three and a half thousand filming days but unfortunately not all of this could make it into the eight 1 hour long episodes. I wonder if this means that there are more episodes in the works or if they will just become archive footage. I commend the enormous team for pulling off what they have, people have been talking about the series since it aired 5 days ago (here in the UK) and I too hope as Sir David has stated that this becomes the first wildlife documentary series to be seen by over a billion people. If that magnitude of people of the 7.7 billion of us that call this planet home – perhaps governments and companies will have no other option but to listen, to care and to change their ways in order to safeguard the planet for the future.