Monday, 14 November 2016

Planet Earth 2

Planet Earth 2 - is this an alternative universe? One where there is no Brexit and Donald Trump hasn't been elected President? One where the nightmares have ended, nobody votes for anything stupid, and everyone lives in peace and harmony and actually gives a shit about humanity?

Sadly not, it's still Planet Earth number one. It's just series number two. Still our flawed, fucked up world. But on camera, it's an achingly beautiful one. One where David Attenborough is in charge, at least of the voiceover. It's not him parachuting off mountain slopes or camping out on a rocky outcrop in a quagmire of penguin shit these days. The man is 90, after all.

All it does is serve to remind us of what is at stake if pacts to reduce carbon emissions are reneged on and countries don't work together for the greater good.

It's not really cheering me up, but it is a stunning watch. From the snake chasing the newly hatched iguanas, to the solitary snow leopards nuzzling the rocks, to the flamingos getting stuck in the ice, to the dancing grizzly bears rubbing up against a tree, to the baby ibex teetering above a vertical drop, it's compelling and breathtaking viewing, all with crystal clear photography; the film slightly slowed to enable us to appreciate it even more.

Though my husband got offended when I said the sloth swimming to find a mate reminded me of him. I don't see why. It really did. And that was one very cute sloth. He captured my husband's slightly slow, lumbering gait perfectly. I'm not saying my husband is a pygmy, or that he has three toes. He doesn't like swimming that much either. I'm not sure he would have ever crossed water to come and find me. Dancing on the revolving floor on Newcastle's Tuxedo Royale moored under the Tyne Bridge does not count. But he is a cuddly, furry beast with a sweet smile.

Many of these are places far more remote than I have ever been, but there are glimpses of the familiar - mountain goats and marmots in Glacier National Park, a waterfall tumbling into the Yellowstone River, an Arabian desert, a blowhole off the New Zealand coast.

How can anyone vote to destroy all this? Because that is essentially what happened in America last week, as a climate change denier was elected to power. How selfish we are. We are as greedy as the eagles squabbling over carrion, as snarling as the snow leopards wanting a mate, as merciless as the snakes, and ultimately as vulnerable to nature as the penguins being smashed against the cliffs in a storm.

Many years ago, I subtitled a documentary about the life of David Attenborough. He was of course quite wonderful - erudite, self-deprecating and very witty. At one point, someone asked him about God. He said he is often criticised for portraying the violent side of animal behaviour in his documentaries when God allegedly made nature so glorious. His response resonated greatly with me at the time:

"Quite frequently people say how...I never give credit to the Almighty Power that created nature... It's funny that people, when they say that this is evidence of the Almighty, always quote beautiful things... orchids and hummingbirds and butterflies and roses. But I always have to think too of a little boy sitting on the banks of a river in West Africa who has a worm boring through his eyeball, turning him blind before he's five years old. I reply and say, 'Presumably the God you speak about created the worm as well.' I find that baffling, to credit a merciful God that action. Therefore it seems to me safer to show things that I know to be truthful and factual and allow people to make up their own mind about the moralities, or indeed the theology, of this thing."

Whether or not there is a god, and personally I do not believe that there is, man must not play god with what we have.

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