Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads

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#SteveReviews: The Green Planet

We have been blessed in recent years with a number of new landmark series featuring Sir David Attenborough. Now, with The Green Planet, plants can finally step out of the shadow of animals and delight us in all of their glory. I’ve been saying to friends and family that we need a modern Private Life of Plants, given how much technology has advanced since 1995. So, when I first learned about The Green Planet, I was thoroughly thrilled to see what Sir David and the team would come up with. It doesn’t disappoint, although there are a few things about the series I’d change. We’re so used to be nature documentary series focussing on animals, that plants are often left at the sidelines. Conservationists have coined the term ‘plant blindness’ to describe the cognitive bias against plants. If you ask anyone on the street to name an endangered species, they are unlikely to give you a plant. As always, the series comes with an accompanying book, which I am still yet to check out myself.

The series itself is quite strong, with five nice episodes each covering a different ‘world’. These ‘worlds’ are just a different habitat in which plants have managed to adapt to. Thankfully, the content within each episode is more scientific than most of the other recent Attenborough offerings. This is probably due to the fact that it is hard to anthropomorphise a plant, or place a false jeopardy on their situation. Through the use of time-lapse photography though, the slow pace of plant life is shown in extraordinary detail. It always astounds me how reactive plants can be to light, predators, or one another. It’s just a shame that we can’t really see it with our own eyes, as plants tend to do things a little slower than what we’ve evolved to be able to recognise. If you’ve ever left flowers on the windowsill, you’ll have no doubt noticed that they’ve turned to face the sun, but you never managed to catch them in the act at the exact moment to be able to tell they were on the move.

Fungi also get a nice mention in The Green Planet, although they’re in a Kingdom entirely on their own (as rightly pointed out), most people would suspect that both plants and fungi are the same. To the untrained eye, I can see why. We now know that fungi are the life support system in forests, something I enjoyed reading about previously in The Hidden Life of Trees. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on plant conservation throughout the series, especially in the final episode. It seems that everyone working on The Green Planet worked hard to combat plant blindness, which can only be something most botanists are happy with! There are a couple of things I’d change about the series though. As with other series, I’m not sure why the production team felt the need to add in sound effects of harvest mice swinging through various plants, it makes them sound almost comical. I’d also try to emphasise the loss of plant diversity closer to home, and how people can help – it can’t all be doom and gloom after all.

If you haven’t seen The Green Planet yet, please do. It has been a long time coming, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

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