February 22, 2024

Free: Watch Our Planet, a Groundbreaking Nature Documentary Series Narrated by David Attenborough


The nature doc­u­men­tary series Our Plan­et opens with a star­tling­ly stark obser­va­tion cour­tesy of broad­cast­er, biol­o­gist, nat­ur­al his­to­ri­an, and author Sir David Atten­bor­ough:

Just 50 years ago, we final­ly ven­tured to the moon…

Since then, the human pop­u­la­tion has more than dou­bled…

(and) In the last 50 years, wildlife pop­u­la­tions have, on aver­age, declined by 60 per­cent.

The twelve-episode series, nar­rat­ed by Atten­bor­ough, is the result of a four-year col­lab­o­ra­tion between Net­flix, Sil­ver­back Films and the World Wildlife Fund. The cre­ators aren’t shy that it’s a race to beat the clock:

For the first time in human his­to­ry, the sta­bil­i­ty of nature can no longer be tak­en for grant­ed.

Rather than take view­ers on a doom scroll of glob­al pro­por­tions, they cul­ti­vate their con­ser­va­tion­ist impuls­es with gor­geous, nev­er-before-filmed views of ice caps, deep ocean, deserts and dis­tant forests.

The high def footage of the mul­ti­tudi­nous crea­tures inhab­it­ing these realms is even more of a hook.

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Whether the frame is filled by a Philip­pine eagle chick, a herd of migrat­ing ele­phants, a hunt­ing Ben­gal tiger or a male orchid bee per­fum­ing him­self to bet­ter his chances of attract­ing a mate, Our Plan­et’s non-human stars are con­sis­tent­ly cap­ti­vat­ing.

Some of the footage speaks direct­ly to the hard­ships these crea­tures are expe­ri­enc­ing as the result of cli­mate change, dwin­dling habi­tats, and oth­er hav­oc wreaked by our species.

Field pro­duc­er Ed Charles said Atten­bor­ough remarked that the plight of a starv­ing polar bear and her cubs pad­dling around the Arc­tic Ocean in search of food was “a real heart­break­er, and that it would cap­ture peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tions:”

This moth­er and her cubs should have been hunt­ing on the ice, even bro­ken ice. That’s where they’re supreme­ly adapt­ed to be, but we found them in water that was open for as far as the eye could see. That’s the real­i­ty of the world they live in today. Nature can be bru­tal. But to see this fam­i­ly with the cub, strug­gling due to no fault of their own, it makes it very hard.

Giv­en how many non-human crea­tures’ fates hinge on human action, and the film­mak­ers’ goal of help­ing us “tru­ly under­stand why nature mat­ters to us all, and what we can do to save it, (so) we can cre­ate a future where nature and peo­ple thrive”, it’s awful­ly sport­ing of Net­flix to bring the series out from behind its sub­scrip­tion pay­wall.

The first sea­son can cur­rent­ly be enjoyed for free on YouTube here.

The film­mak­ers also pro­vide a num­ber of free edu­ca­tion­al resources for schools and younger view­ers.

Not that we adults should sit back and wait for the younger gen­er­a­tion to bail us out of this seem­ing­ly insol­u­ble mess.

Our Plan­et’s web­site shares ways in which all of us can take an active role in sav­ing and restor­ing pre­cious parts of the plan­et our species has near­ly destroyed.

Again, it’s bet­ter than doom scrolling.

Con­sid­er our remain­ing jun­gles and rain­forests, “a nat­ur­al ally in the fight against cli­mate change” due to the incred­i­ble diver­si­ty of life they har­bor.

They help reg­u­late glob­al weath­er, cool the plan­et by reflect­ing the sun’s heat, gen­er­ate and send out vast amounts of water, and remove car­bon from the atmos­phere.

Atten­bor­ough points out that humans have cleared jun­gle and for­est suf­fi­cient to meet­ing all future human demand for food and tim­ber. The trick will be learn­ing how to use this pre­vi­ous­ly cleared land more effi­cient­ly while prac­tic­ing envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship.

Indi­vid­u­als can start by edu­cat­ing them­selves and hold them­selves to a high stan­dard, refus­ing to buy any item whose pro­duc­tion is tied to defor­esta­tion.

Gov­ern­ments can offer finan­cial incen­tives to com­pa­nies with a proven com­mit­ment to using this land in thought­ful, eco­log­i­cal­ly sus­tain­able ways.

Rather than suc­cumb to over­whelm­ing despair, take heart from inno­va­tors breath­ing new life into a defor­est­ed part of Brazil sev­en times the size of the Unit­ed King­dom.

Eco­log­i­cal con­cerns did not seem near­ly so press­ing when vast amounts of rain for­est once occu­py­ing this land were cleared in order to pas­ture cat­tle. A lack of fore­sight and sus­tain­able prac­tices led it to become so degrad­ed it could no longer sup­port graz­ing.

(Cat­tle aside, birds, insects, mam­mals, plants and oth­er for­mer inhab­i­tants were also SOL.)

Rather than cut down more pre­cious jun­gle, trail­blaz­ing envi­ron­men­tal vision­ar­ies are pro­mot­ing regen­er­a­tion with native seedlings, plant­i­ng fast-grow­ing, super-effi­cient crops, and restor­ing the jun­gle adja­cent to grow­ing areas as a form of nat­ur­al pes­ti­cide.

That pro­vides a glim­mer of hope, right?

The 97-year-old Atten­bor­ough can even get on board with eco­tourism, a risky move giv­en how a large car­bon foot­print can trans­late to a dim pub­lic view.

Per­haps he’s bank­ing that first-hand encoun­ters with won­ders once encoun­tered only in doc­u­men­taries could help keep the plan­et spin­ning long after we’re no longer here to bear wit­ness.

Watch the first sea­son of Our Plan­et for free here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

David Atten­bor­ough Reads “What a Won­der­ful World” in a Mov­ing Video

How Sounds Are Faked For Nature Doc­u­men­taries: Meet the Artists Who Cre­ate the Sounds of Fish, Spi­ders, Orang­utans, Mush­rooms & More

Watch Young David Atten­bor­ough Encounter Ani­mals in Their Nat­ur­al Habi­tats: Video from the 1950s and 1960s

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.





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