Monday, 2 January 2017

The 'Crime' of Attenborough?


Martin Hughes-Games, the producer of 'Springwatch', has suggested that David Attenborough's immensely popular series 'Planet Earth 2' is a disaster for wildlife as it doesn't sufficiently emphasise the detrimental impact of human populations on nature (https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jan/01/planet-earth-ii-david-attenborough-martin-hughes-games-bbc-springwatch). His basic point is that Attenborough's programme might leave the impression that all is well with a diverse and beautiful nature in many parts of the world. Certainly, humans and their aspirations are causing major detrimental effects on the organisms on our planet (this is one reason why some people advocate specifying a new geological era to be termed the 'Anthropocene', reflecting our impact on mass extinctions, habitat destruction and climate change). Hughes-Games is not convinced that the evidence is there that 'Planet Earth 2' and similar programmes sufficiently change the audience's attitudes, making them more supportive of conservation. One might argue, however, that it would be difficult to detect meaningful attitudinal changes in the short term (one must also remember that the series will be shown to folk outside the UK-perhaps in regions where the animals live). It also fails to take into account Attenborough's championing of attempts to limit human population growth (so he is well aware of the difficulty of accommodating humans and animals in a finite planet) . Given the resistance to climate change initiatives, I am uncertain whether spending whole series on the negative impacts of humans on nature would prove popular or even convince people to change their behaviour. I personally think that there are roles for both a) stressing the beauty of nature and b) pointing out that human activities pose real dangers to its survival. I believe that people are more likely to care about what they see, especially if it is as impactful as 'Planet Earth 2'.

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