Having been enthralled by Sir David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II series I was interested to hear a radio interview with one of the production team.
After covering the stunning camera work, wonderful field craft and new technologies required to film the striking and evocative footage, the conversation took an interesting turn.
The interviewer asked whether showing such beautiful creatures in stunning locations risked giving viewers a sense that everything in the natural world was rosy.
The interviewee from the Planet Earth team explained that whilst some of the threats posed to wildlife and the habitats they rely on had been covered in the opening programme, and would feature in subsequent broadcasts, the main aim of the series was to celebrate nature and provide viewers with the opportunity to see animals and wildlife spectacles as never before.
This argument is nothing new and sadly whilst wildlife programmes have got better the plight of species and habitats has declined dramatically, almost to the point of no return in some cases. Whilst these two timelines can be mapped side by side I don’t believe that the two are directly linked. Rather than leading to a sense of complacency, I believe that great wildlife programmes inspire respect and passion for wildlife which in turn leads to support for conservation bodies and campaigns. So whilst it is true that many species are on the brink of extinction I hate to think how much worse things might be if people like Sir David hadn’t bothered?
Programme makers shouldn’t shy away from difficult topics or hide the reality that wildlife is under threat, but there has to be merit in simply celebrating wildlife and wild places. If we don’t inspire people about the wonders of the natural world, why on earth should people care about it? At Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust we try to strike a balance by being honest about the levels of threat but also trying not to present too gloomy a picture - after all we don’t want to give people the sense that things are beyond hope.
We should enjoy series such as Planet Earth II but then take a moment to think - is there more I can do to help ensure that future generations will be able to see such these creatures for real rather than just on an old copy of the footage?