A young orphaned elephant with his keeper at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nairobi nursery in Kenya, Africa. Picture: Supplied
A young orphaned elephant with his keeper at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nairobi nursery in Kenya, Africa. Picture: Supplied

'A Perfect Planet' is a force of nature with Sir David Attenborough as the narrator

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Feb 13, 2021

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When I was growing, I used to loathe watching wildlife shows. They were dull and indistinguishable from the next.

Since the introduction of high-tech cameras in the filmmaking space and the evolved storytelling, that is no longer the case.

And BBC Earth is pioneering in this regard.

The channel has churned out some of the most groundbreaking nature series like “David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet,” “Primates”, “Planet Earth: A Celebration”, “Jane Goodall: The Hope”, “Frozen Planet” and “The Blue Planet II” to mention a few.

With Sir David Attenborough synonymous as the narrator on most of the shows, it’s become a huge selling point, too.

The latest offering, “A Perfect Planet”, also features Attenborough and is produced by Huw Cordey, who was nominated for an Emmy for “Our Planet”.

Shedding light on the series, Cordey revealed: “The idea behind the series was to show how the forces of nature – volcanoes, sunlight, ocean currents and weather – have nurtured the great diversity of life we have on our planet.

“There have been many natural history series focussing on animal behaviour and habitats but this is the first to combine earth sciences, and a global perspective of our planet, and blue-chip natural history – revealing not just powerful and intimate animal stories but giving the audience a much greater understanding of how the world works.”

Millions of straw coloured fruit bats leave their roost at sunset to head into the surrounding forest to feed, Zambia. Picture: Supplied

He continued: “We are the only known planet in the Universe with life – a fact that, on its own, would easily justify the description of ‘perfect’ – but none of it would have got started without a lot of cosmic fortune: Earth is the perfect distance from the sun, with the perfect tilt of 23.5 degrees.

“It has the ideal spin and a decent sized moon to stop us wobbling on our axis.

“But for life to proliferate as it has, our Goldilocks planet needed the perfect balance of natural forces that form the basis of this series.

“Without volcanoes, for instance, we would have no breathable atmosphere, no oceans and no dry land.

“Our weather distributes freshwater around the globe; ocean currents circulate essential nutrients, and energy from the sun powers our living world and is a vital ingredient for the most important chemical reaction on the planet – photosynthesis.

“And for the last ten thousand years, these forces have provided warmth and stability.”

Yasur volcano, lava lake erupting with volcanologist, Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Picture: Supplied

“‘A Perfect Planet’ shows how these forces have shaped life on Earth, from tens of thousands of lesser flamingos using a toxic volcanic lake to breed, to fire ants forming rafts in the Amazon’s flooded forest; from the wood frog that freezes solid like a block of ice every winter tiny to the fifty million red crabs of Christmas Island, which, on the onset of the Australian, migrate to the coast where they cast trillions of eggs into the sea.”

The five-part series looks at how the natural forces and the newest force - humans - have an impact on the natural world.

On the decision to include humans in the equation, he explained: “This series would have felt incomplete without including the human force and our impact on the planet.

“As Sir David Attenborough says at the beginning of the episode, ‘This is the most important story of our times’.

“There’s no denying that we are a powerful force – the most numerous mammal species after the brown rat – but our activity is now threatening the natural forces that our planet depends on.

“Indeed, our impact is now so great that scientists have suggested we have entered a new geological era ‘the Anthropocene’ – a period where human activity has been the dominant influence on the environment.”

Cordey added: “We now release more carbon dioxide, through our burning of fossil fuels, than all the world’s volcanoes – and this gas is destabilising our weather, upsetting ocean currents and making our planet warmer.

“The consequences of this, if left unchecked, would be disastrous - not just for humanity but also for our great diversity of species.

“At the moment, we are losing species at a rate of more than 1000 times faster than would be considered normal.

“It’s why many scientists now believe that we are in the sixth mass extinction.”

“Humans” is the fifth and final episode in the series.

“This episode shows how and why we have got to this position – but, and more importantly, it also reveals what we need to do to reverse the damage.

“The answer, appropriately, can be found in our natural forces, since green energy - wind, solar and thermal - can easily provide humanity with all the energy we require.”

“A Perfect Planet” offers an incisive look at a pertinent issue.

“A Perfect Planet” airs on BBC Earth (DStv channel 184) from Sunday, February 14, at 4pm.

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