“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
—Sir David Attenborough
I love most things British. I grew up with a number of friends who had immigrated from England and have been across the pond a couple of times myself. I’m even of British descent on my father’s side, albeit a few generations away from the time my ancestors left for Canada. (I’m Ukrainian on my mother’s side.)
Because of all of these various exposures during my lifetime, I’ve come to feel a real connection to Britain. There are so many things I appreciate about it. I particularly enjoy the many differences that exist between the British and those of us living in the former colonies.
One amazing from from Britain I have come to appreciate even more of late is the BBC series of documentaries that have produced celebrating the wonders of our planet. Being at the cottage in Muskoka gives me a great love of nature and its wonders, but those are still local wonders. “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet” have shown me wonders that are much more exotic than those I experience in my own neck of the woods.
All of the documentaries are narrated by well-known naturalist Sir David Attenborough, and they also have majestic scores composed by George Fenton that bring the scenes vividly to life. We just finished watching “Frozen Planet.” Learning more about how life thrives and struggles at both poles was amazing. It’s incredible how even in the most inhospitable corners of the globe, life finds a way.
As a reader of this blog, I’m sure I don’t need to educate you on the fact that global warming is changing things in the Arctic and Antarctica more dramatically than anywhere else in the world. But I would suggest that anyone who watches the last episode of the series, the seventh episode entitled “On Thin Ice,” cannot help but be moved by what is happening at those locations.
Some of the information is rather concerning to learn. For example, 90 percent of Earth’s ice is located at Antarctica, and that makes about 70 percent of the planet’s fresh water. The ice is a few kilometres thick at its deepest, and it’s at these sites where paleoclimatologists drill out their ice cores, helping to tell us about climates of the past.
If all of this ice ever completely melted, it turns out that sea levels would rise about sixty metres, or over two hundred feet. This will be absolutely devastating if it ever occurs: two-thirds of the world’s largest cities (i.e. those more than five million people) are located near coasts and would be particularly sensitive to any significant rise in sea levels. Good-bye New York City.
I believe the episode “On Thin Ice” does a very good job of avoiding being overly melodramatic. As an example, it comes through loud and clear that polar bears will struggle harder than ever before as the Arctic ice continues to melt away, as it has been doing every summer. But it’s told as a matter of fact rather than drama. The viewer can’t help but feel something while watching, but I think the producers do a good job of keeping it a documentary. (Despite this, there was some controversy as to whether the episode would air in the US, given the number of skeptics and deniers located there. Ultimately, common sense prevailed.)
I believe that watching these BBC series will give anyone a better appreciation of how we are but one of the many species who share this planet, and that playing our part means that we share it, not conquer it.
Anytime I’m interviewed about global warming, a common question I’m asked is “What would you do to solve the problem?” After watching these documentaries, part of my answer will now include that these episodes, these brilliant glimpses into the beauty and majesty of the varies species living with us on Earth, should be watched by everyone who doubts there’s a problem, or doubts that we should ever consider doing anything about it.
Only the most heartless would continue to feel that business-as-usual is totally acceptable after seeing how the rest of the planet exists, and how it is changing because of our actions.