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Our Planet: David Attenborough's Netflix debut


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For decades, Sir David Attenborough has been beguiling generation after generation with tales of strange, beautiful animals and far-off landscapes.

In many senses, Attenborough is integral to the British psyche; teenagers and school children everywhere have memories of the old, battered TV being brought out on a rainy day in biology class to teach us about the animal kingdom and conservation. For many of us, Attenborough has been a formative influence on our understanding of the environment.


Image Credit: qimono via Pixabay 

Attenborough is, perhaps, one of the most influential nature documentary-makers of our time: since the release of Blue Planet II, 53% of people report using less plastic as a result. Certainly, not many documentary-makers can claim such an influence. Perhaps it is this impact that spurred Attenborough’s controversial move to Netflix this Spring, with his release of Our Planet. The prospect of Netflix’s 150 million subscribers worldwide allows Attenborough to preach his gospel of conservation and climate change to a wider audience than ever before.

Our Planet covers six ecosystems, all with a direct and more explicit focus on climate change. The first episode – titled Our Planet – introduces the series and  emphasises the fragility of our planet’s ecosystems. The second episode covers Frozen Worlds and highlights the devastating impact of melting ice caps, through the heart-wrenching depictions of Walrus falling from cliffs in Siberia. Then, Attenborough moves to Jungles, and dazzles the viewer with stunning clips of dancing birds of paradise – and images of unparalleled deforestation in Indonesia.

pacific walrus

Image Credit: skeeze from Pixabay

For episode four, we travel to Coastal Seas, where Attenborough informs the audience that although coastal seas cover 'only 7% of the earth', they 'account for 95% of the world's marine production'.

Next up was From Deserts to Grasslands, where the viewer is taken on a journey and told tales of the American Bison – once endangered, and now on the rise, due to conservation efforts.

The High Seas episode covers the Angler Fish of the deep sea and the rise of whale populations due to conservation efforts. In the Fresh Water episode, we learn about a 'planned $5 billion hydropower dam' and its impact on the world’s largest inland fishery, in the Mekong.

Finally, in Forests, we learn about how bald Eagles hunt for fish, and the plight of Amur tigers, an endangered species with only 540 individuals left in the wild.  

Amur Tiger

Image Credit: Garret Voight via Flickr

Perhaps the thing that sets Our Planet apart from Attenborough’s previous series is the inclusion of the interactive website, In previous Attenborough docu-series, the viewer is often left with a sense of deep despair: a sense that the world as we know it is crumbling and will soon be unrecognisable, beyond repair. The audience is presented with vast issues, seemingly beyond our capability to prevent. Yet, with this new series, at the end of every documentary, the viewer is presented with a link, to the Our Planet website – which details ways in which you can make a difference, such as eating less meat and shopping for sustainably sourced products.

The website even contains links to a carbon-footprint calculator, which allows you to calculate your footprint, shows comparisons to the EU targets for carbon footprint data and suggestions for how you can reduce your carbon production.

Sir David Attenborough at Bird Fair 2008

Image Credit: thirtyfootscrew via Flickr

Climate change is at the forefront of the public consciousness. With high-profile protests from Extinction Rebellion, monumental reports from the UN, and even a climate emergency being called in the UK, we are talking about the environment like never before.

In his opening speech at Our Planet's premiere, Attenborough said, ‘Nature once determined how we survive, now we determine how nature survives.

''One of the things Darwin’s work has taught us is that we break nature’s connections at our peril. Yet break them we do - at ever greater speed. The impacts of our growing population and our consumption now directly threaten our own future."

Attenborough’s speech highlights just what this docu-series attempts to demonstrate: the interconnected, intensely fragile state of our planet. A state that means we have the power to save our planet, just as much as we have the power to destroy it. All this is presented in an innovative, interactive format that informs and empowers the viewer to look after this delicate and balanced planet we call home.

Lead image credit: qimono via Pixabay 

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