State of the Planet
is long overdue. The BBC's Natural History Unit has finally delivered a hard-hitting documentary series on the extinction crisis many scientists believe is beginning to threaten the integrity of the entire biosphere. The combination of stunning camerawork, glossy production, David Attenborough's inspirational whispering narration and subject matter of the greatest and most urgent import makes State of the Planet
riveting and required viewing.
The three programmes cover the scientific understanding of the crisis, the extent to which humans are implicated in the wave of extinctions currently sweeping across our planet, and the ways in which we might slow or halt the current precipitous decline in Earth's biodiversity. In brief, the conclusions are that we know astonishingly little about the diversity of life on Earth, that our species is implicated at every level in precipitating this, the "sixth great mass extinction", and that we are only just beginning to see possible ways out of the environmental mess that we have created. Viewing the second programme (our malfeasance) directly before the third (our attempts at remediation) makes it abundantly clear that we have a very long way to go.
The participation in the series of some of the world's leading authorities on biodiversity and extinction--Ed Wilson, Terry Erwin, Sylvia Earle, Sir Robert May--adds considerable gravity to Attenborough's already weighty presentation. However, the programmes would have been much improved had the experts been allotted more than the odd sound-bite. And why only three programmes on such an important and urgent issue? Even the terrifically expensive and time-consuming Walking with Dinosaurs got six. More of the serious stuff, please. --Chris Lavers
Over three programmes David Attenborough travels from Kenya to California, investigating the contesting claims about the current state of our planet. In the first programme he examines the extinction crisis, measuring the disappearance of some species against the mass of life that still remains undiscovered; in the second, he explores this crisis further, examining its causes; and finally, in the third, he looks at the possible courses of action open to us in the coming century.