We are pleased to welcome Allan Terplawy, this week’s guest blogger and thank him for his thorough review of a documentary called A Life On Our Planet. Following this Lucy will review There’s Something in the Water. Both of these documentaries can currently be found on Netflix. Lucy will also link you to One Tree Planted summary of The State of California.
A REVIEW OF DAVID ATTENBOROUGH’S “A LIFE ON OUR PLANET” by Allan Terplawy
David Attenborough is 93 years old. We all should hope to be as articulate, wise, and fit when reach that age. If this is his final message, it is one to which all of us should listen.
You have likely heard David Attenborough’s voice on many nature-related documentaries such as Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, etc., but his contribution to the subject of nature and its preservation goes far beyond narration. In this documentary, he takes us through his life experiences and simultaneously shows how the earth has “progressed” in terms of population, carbon in the atmosphere, and the %’age of wilderness remaining over the years. The story is both interesting and alarming. The planet is losing its bio-diversity. As he puts it, “As (man’s) understanding of how the living world works., our behaviour becomes more and more damaging”. Ironically, this is driven by our intelligence as a species.
The documentary highlights and compares some key statistics through his life:
- World population
- % Carbon in the atmosphere
- % of wilderness remaining
When Sir David was a teenager, around 1937, the planet had 2.3 billion people, 66% of the planet was in wilderness there was 280 ppm carbon in the atmosphere. Now in 2020 Sir David is 93 and there are 7.8 billion people, 35% of the planet is in wilderness, and there is 415 ppm carbon in the atmosphere. It is effective how Sir David updates these facts as he goes along in the documentary.
Sir David also highlights other facts such as the amount of deforestation and the increase and effects of large scale commercial fishing. As we would expect, the cinematography is unparalleled.What I found encouraging is that the documentary is not just all doom and gloom. Yes, the planet is at a tipping point, but there are actions we can take to correct its course, and indeed many places (Morocco, Holland, Japan, and Costa Rica to name a few) are making progress and have shown that corrections can be made and our standard of living can still improve. The Netherlands has taken commercial greenhouses to the next level, actually exporting vegetables to the rest of Europe (no small feat considering its land area). Morocco boasts huge solar energy generation, exporting it to Europe. Japan has both controlled its population growth and improved its standard of living. And Costa Rica is an example of how we can reverse the effects of excessive deforestation.The ocean is a vast food source for humans but, if left unchecked, large scale commercial fishing can, and has, unbalanced the equilibrium. Over-fishing large predators (tuna is included in this category – large, ugly and tasty all at the same time) causes the oceanic nutrient cycle to stutter. Predators help to keep oceanic nutrients in the waters, recycling them, so that they can be used again and again by plankton. Without predators, the nutrients are lost and the ocean starts to die.
Another interesting fact is that the ocean is a huge heat sink for the earth. As our polar ice caps slowly deteriorate, the amount of snow cover is reduced, hence reducing the earth’s ability to reflect that heat back into space. The oceans, however, are able to absorb much of this heat but even they are experiencing distress. The ocean temperature is rising (1 centigrade degree on average during Sir David’s lifetime) and this is causing coral reefs to die.
The documentary stresses that forests are the best technology for locking away carbon. But you already know that. We don’t deforest without reason – we benefit from the tress and materials we harvest and subsequently use the land for farming. But better use of the land will allow us to reduce or halt deforestation and “re-wild” the earth.
The tone of the documentary, I thought, was not one of admonishing the human race for doing bad things – we as humans did what we thought we had to, to supply the population with its seemingly insatiable demand. Our use of the land, however, was not optimal. So let’s change our focus – grow more vegetables, thus not over-stressing the land. What struck me, though is that he did not say “STOP EATING MEAT”, or “SHUT DOWN THE DAIRY AND CATTLE FARMS”. Certainly, we need to move in the direction of eating significantly less meat and limiting our dairy consumption – this type of farming is a very inefficient use of land and can be inhumane in its treatment of animals. We need to reduce our consumption. But these are conclusions that Sir David leads you to arrive at through an eloquently narrated and brilliantly photographed documentary.
Sir David summarizes: “This is my witness statement. A story of global decline during a single lifetime.” But he goes on to say that “Nature is our biggest ally and our greatest inspiration.” We are urged to embrace it, support it, and care for it. Plant a tree and enjoy the benefits.
Thank you Allan for such a great review. We agree with everything you have said. This film is a visual representation of what we attempt to do with our blog. We consciously try to offer information about how Mother Earth is doing, under the strain of 7.7 billion people, while maintaining a positive, encouraging and hopeful attitude about the future, since we all want our subsequent generations of family to enjoy the earth’s beauty and live fulfilling lives. We are aware through all the scientific information we receive, and thru the wisdom on Sir David Attenborough, that we need to make conscious decisions today to ensure this will happen.
A Review of Ellen Page’s “There is Something in the Water” by Lucy MacQuarrie
Another movie to watch on Netflix is There Is Something in the Water. “Based on Ingrid Waldron’s incendiary study, the film follows actress and activist Ellen Page as she travels to rural areas of Nova Scotia that are plagued by toxic fallout from industrial development. As did Waldron, the filmmakers discover that these catastrophes have been precisely placed, all in remote, low income — and very often Indigenous or Black — communities. As the filmmakers observe, your postal code determines your health.”
“As a result of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, long overdue conversations about environmental racism and the intersection of racism and environmental justice are actively taking place throughout Canada. ” according to the Suzuki Foundation.
Lucy and Allan both found this documentary engaging, as the 3 rural areas of Nova Scotia plagued by toxic fallout are very clear, and the spokeswomen are all passionate, articulate and deeply committed to creating a change. And there is a happy ending!
A Review of One Tree Planted series “The State of California” by Lucy MacQuarrie
One Tree Planted has created a 6 part series called “The State of California”. Each episode is only about 5-7 minutes long. I watched a few of them and they surprisingly carry an optimistic outlook for the future of California’s forests. These are far less engaging and professional than the other documentaries mentioned above, but you may be interested in the topic.
- One Tree Planted
- How Did We Get Here?
- On the Line
- Fighting Fire With Fire
- The Need for Seed
- Where Do We Go From Here?
According to One Tree Planted, “California is one of 35 biodiversity hotspots around the world. Its wide range of endemic species and varied climate make it a unique place. In this series we try to understand what makes California so special. We look into the many challenges facing the forest, population, and environment, and the solutions being employed to help the state avoid and recover from catastrophic wildfires.”
“Throughout this series we meet the people dedicated to ensuring California’s forests are healthy and safe. From policymakers to academics, to the tree planters and firefighters, these people are on the frontlines of the collective effort to restore California’s landscape and instill hope for future generations.”
This series can be accessed thru One Tree Planted and also thru their Youtube Channel.