Television Programme of the year – Planet Earth II

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Must see television programmes are like a good marriage, you’ve heard of them, but up close they rarely exist. But this is David Attenborough territory. So you can suspend belief and watch this like a child, with open-mouthed wonder. My bet is you’ve never seen over a million penguins on Zavodoski island, a live volcano rock. That’s a lot of methane and lots of guano. Until we get smell-o-vision we’ll not get the real feel, but we do see them feeding and falling and generally getting on with things and wondering what species these lumbering bipeds are. Or perhaps you’d rather watch golden eagles with twelve-foot wing spans diving at two-hundred- miles-per-hour and  fighting over the carrion of a dead fox in the Pyrenees. A standout is newly hatched iguanas trying to make it to the safety of the rocks and sea, while colonies of snakes try to eat them. I mean, who really cares about beasties like this? But it’s absolutely riveting.  How about snow leopard in the high Andes? Or if you don’t fancy that, leopards hunting wild pigs in an Indian city.  A flamingo parade in heat that would peal paint. And for a bit of added comedy bowerbirds stealing a man-made love heart for his bower  and a shiny toy car in an Australian golf course. Langurs jumping from rooftop to rooftop and stealing out of people’s hands, fruit and vegetable and most other things that take their fancy.   There is great beauty in such diversity. And we’re rooting for all kinds of bugs, and beasts, we’ve most likely never heard of. Attenborough does allude to man-made destruction. Encroachment of the Alps by humans and snow and ice also retreating in the Andes (glacier loss estimated at fifty-percent less than 30 years ago) and the temperature in the Himalayas soaring. It is Attenborough’s job to entertain and inform, with the former necessarily outdoing the latter.

But the figures are stark. See these creatures in their natural habitat in all their glory, because they won’t be with us much longer. The report from WWF Living Planet Report, highlighted by Professor Georgina Mace, professor of biodiversity and ecosystems, UCL, shows the number of wild vertebrates on Earth have been reduced by 58% in the last 40 years. Andrea Selia, professor of materials and inorganic chemistry, UCL, adding her voice to that of, for example Peter Wadham’s eulogy, A Farewell to Ice. A Report from the Arctic. Seliah’s message is equally as snappy: ‘The ice doesn’t lie’ Mass global warming. Sea ice thinning and melting in an area the size of western Europe in the Antarctic and Arctic. The chances of that happening randomly – a 7 sigma event – one in a hundred billion.  Climate science is even more specific. Taking Charles Kneeling’s 1957 measurement as a baseline for the rise of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, it has passed the 400-parts-per- million mark, reports Tasmin Edwards, lecturer in environmental sciences, Open University. The highest level in three million years. An accident waiting to happen, but it’s not an accident. Goodbye to all that.


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