Our Planet

The true cause and effects of climate change: The most under-reported story in science and the environment.

Seeing is not always believing. I’m writing this just minutes after hundreds of police officers closed in on Extinction Rebellion protesters on the fifth day of largely peaceful demonstrations in central London. More than 500 people have been arrested at protests on Waterloo Bridge, outside Parliament Square and in Oxford Circus. Police surrounded a pink boat — yes, you read that right — in Oxford Circus with the words, “Tell The Truth” emblazoned across its hull, moments after the actress Emma Thompson told activists that her generation has “failed young people” — the same message 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, 44 years Thompson’s junior, impressed on MEPs, members of the European Parliament, earlier in the week.

“We are here in this little island of sanity and it makes me so happy yo be able to join you all and add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement,” Thompson told the crowd, in what sounded like pre-prepared, carefully rehearsed comments. She’s an actress, after all.

©Evening Standard

©Evening Standard

The police, London mayor Sadiq Khan and newspaper editorial writers don’t see it that way, of course. Drivers inside London’s fee-generating Decongestion Zone — the clue is in the name — should be allowed to drive unimpeded, it appears. Making money is more important than the environment. Gas guzzlers are fine, thank you very much, as long as you’re willing to pay the surcharge on your gas-guzzling older model vehicle, on top of the charge you already pay for driving through the centre of London.

The police were certainly pre-prepared. BBC reported many of the officers were wearing high-vis jackets sporting the words “Protestor Removal Team,” something they wouldn’t have bothered with had they no intention of removing protestors.

It’s worth remembering that it’s now the weekend,  and a long weekend at that. Or, as they call it in Britain — irony unintended — a “bank holiday weekend.”

©Sky News/YouTube

©Sky News/YouTube

The protests come at a time when many of the same media outlets that are criticizing the demonstrations with op-ed pieces headed, “The Extinction Rebels have got their tactics badly wrong,” have said — in separate pieces, written by other writers — that climate change and, more importantly, the cause(s) that lie behind climate change, is the single most overlooked, under-reported story in media today.

©Sky News/YouTube

©Sky News/YouTube

That will doubtless sound counterintuitive to anyone reading this page, or who follows groups like SeaLegacy and the Rare & Endangered Species Trust (REST Namibia) on Facebook, where the news seems to be nothing but climate change. For all their passion, though, these are niche audiences — the mainstream news, even on Earth Day weekend, is all about Trump, Brexit and Notre Dame Cathedral, and who’s going to be named “Head of Household” this weekend on Big Brother: Canada.

And the news on Trump has nothing to do with his stance on climate and the environment (“HIs ignorance is startling,” according to the journal Oil Change International) but rather his propensity for corruption, obstruction of justice and currying favour with his country’s traditional enemies in order to win an election against an unpopular opponent — two years ago.

©Image by Pete Linforth/Pixabay

©Image by Pete Linforth/Pixabay

“Hearts and minds will not be won with protest puppetry, guerrilla gardening and talk of climate justice,” the protest’s detractors say, citing the usual bromides: Blocking bridges, disrupting public transport and gluing themselves to fences outside politicians’ homes is no way to effect change, leaving aside the fact that street demonstrations in Paris in May, 1968 did exactly that, and shaped French society for decades — decades — afterwards. The May 1968 street protests in France are today considered a cultural, social and moral turning point in that nation’s history. The 1968 Paris demonstrations succeeded in part, activist and then-protest leader Alain Geismar — a physicist sentenced to 18 months in jail for his actions — would point out, because they were “a social revolution, not a political one.”

The Extinction Rebellion protests might yet mark a turning point in what to date has been a struggle for climate activists to seize the public conversation. The old simp about how meaningful and long-lasting change requires more talk and less direct action no longer holds water — pun intended. The climate crisis is no longer a crisis but an emergency. The time for talk is over. Climate model after climate model shows that the process of global warming is accelerating at a pace beyond even the most pessimistic — some would say realistic — projections. It’s no longer enough to say Canada’s Northwest Passage will be free of summer ice in our lifetime — it is already ice-free in the summer months. As the David Attenborough Netflix program Our Planet documented painfully in its episode about the polar regions, Arctic sea ice has vanished to the point where walruses are dying from jumping off rock cliffs, thinking they’ll land in water. This is happening now, today, not in some abstract future. And that’s what the Extinction Rebellion protests are about. They’re a call to action. And whether you choose to believe 60-year-old Emma Thompson or 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, it’s time for everyone to wake up.

©Image by Gerd Altmann /Pixabay

©Image by Gerd Altmann /Pixabay

Here are the ways climate change has gone unreported by the mainstream media in the past year, according to a study by the NGO Care International that analyzed more than one million online news stories.

Climate change was directly responsible for the majority of humanitarian disasters over the past year. Entire populations were affected by food crises caused by drought or hurricane flooding in countries from Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad to the Philippines, Madagascar and Haiti, and yet few of these crises generated more than 1,000 news stories each.

In Madagascar, more than a million people went hungry as corn and rice fields withered in a drought exacerbated by severe El Niño conditions. Today, almost half that country’s children suffer from stunted growth, according to CARE International, but their suffering has generated scant few headlines. Across the globe, extreme weather events claimed more than 5,000 lives in 2018 and left 25 million people in need of humanitarian aid and emergency assistance. 

As Asad Rehman, executive director of the NGO War on Want, told The Guardian, “Climate change reporting prefers pictures of polar bears to those who we are killing with our inaction.”

Dr. Viwanou Gnassounou, assistant secretary general of the Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) group of states and the point person on ACP’s program for sustainable development, told The Guardian that donor countries often link aid to an agreement to remain silent on the climate change.

©Image by Robert Jones/Pixabay

©Image by Robert Jones/Pixabay

“We try always to show that these disasters are linked to climate change but we have to fight to get our points heard. We have not been very successful until now. The media coverage is poor and reported in terms of ‘disaster’ — not linked to climate change or its consequences.

“They will never say it formally but it is part of the conversation,” Gnassounou told The Guardian. “They prefer that you condemn yourself by saying you did not have a proper policy to prevent disaster and now you need their support.”

Contrast that with what some of the demonstrators were telling local papers these past few days in London.

Here was Cathy Eastburn, 51, who told reporters she decided to take a stand for her teenage daughters. “I don’t want to be here today, and I’m really sorry for the disruption, but I feel I have been forced to do this,” she told The Guardian’s Matthew Taylor and Damien Gayle. “I have two daughters and I can’t sit by while their future is threatened … The government is doing nothing. We have to force them to act.”

Given the stakes involved, an extra weekend of traffic disruption in central London seems a small price to pay to get the rest of world to wake up.

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/as-trumps-climate-denial-continues-a-global-rebellion-spreads?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiazbxKDc4QIVCNVkCh3FkgiPEAAYASAAEgIQq_D_BwE


https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/19/extinction-rebellion-climate-change-protests-london

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47976184?fbclid=IwAR2FXxfzQqQTi1N23u5VAgPAliGA4i20ozZGp1MNNBT_krBuI9F6YAL3sWk

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/29/world/europe/29iht-france.4.12440504.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all


https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/06/climate-manifesto/



https://theconversation.com/why-covering-the-environment-is-one-of-the-most-dangerous-beats-in-journalism-105477


Netflix’s ‘Our Planet’: ‘Planet Earth’ revisited, but with a stronger, clearer eco-voice.

Politics is inescapable these days, it seems. Take something as seemingly benevolent and benign — and beautiful to behold — as Our Planet, the new, eye-filling nature series from Netflix, narrated by the ubiquitous Sir David Attenborough.

At the time of Netflix’s original announcement, Our Planet was to be similar and yet different to such distinctive, ground-breaking natural history programs as Planet Earth and Blue Planet. And, as the great unwashed are about to learn Friday, it has largely succeeded. There are moments of real, eye-filling majesty and genuine grandeur, backed by the swelling symphonic score of film composer Steven Price. Overbearing, yes, but it fits this kind of program. It’s easy to forget now but when the original Planet Earth came out, the loud, overblown music was by George Fenton, fresh off an Academy Award for Gandhi and its follow-up Cry Freedom, both films directed by Attenborough’s brother, the late Sir Richard “Dickie” Attenborough.

©Gisle Sverdrup/Silverback/Netflix

©Gisle Sverdrup/Silverback/Netflix

The familiar visual paean to nature and the natural world that made Planet Earth and Blue Planet must-see viewing in countless households around the world is there for all to see in Our Planet, and on a Netflix budget to boot.

This time, though, there’s a noticeable difference, and not just the subtle shift in tone. Our Planet, eight episodes in all, is more eco-aware and socially conscious. It strikes a cautionary tone  — a warning. Not alarm, exactly, but still. Our Planet is no longer nature programming that focuses on nature-for-nature’s-sake, to the exclusion of any environmental message beyond a polite, almost apologetic request that we be more careful with the Earth’s dwindling natural resources. Please remember to turn off the lights on your way out, and try not to wreck the climate during your drive home.
There’s a sadness, a feeling of regret tinged with genuine fear of an uncertain future as we’re reminded, time and time again, that polar bears and elephants might not be with us much longer.

And not just polar bears and elephants, either, but bees, hummingbirds, ocean-going reef sharks and everything in-between.

Our Planet opens with a close-up view from space — reminders of 2001: A Space Odyssey —  of the moon, with the Earth rising gradually behind it. Since Neil Armstrong made his first step for man and giant leap for mankind, on July 20, 1969, Attenborough tells us, the human population has doubled, while wildlife numbers have dwindled some 60 percent during the same time. 

©Ben Macdonald/Silverback/Netflix

©Ben Macdonald/Silverback/Netflix

Our Planet isn’t strident. It doesn’t harangue us with a lecture from the bully pulpit, though there are certainly those eco-crusaders out there who would prefer to shake every last one of us — not without reason — into waking up.

Attenborough has not left BBC for Netflix, as some in the media suggested at the time. (Looking at it from both sides of the media divide, these things are easy to misreport, especially given today’s frantic get-it-first-before-you-get-it-right climate of competition in information.)

Attenborough may be 92 (he turns 93 next month) but he’s committed to several more big projects for BBC, including Frozen Planet II, Blue Planet III and Planet Earth III.

Similarly, he has left the door open at Netflix. He was signed after-the-fact to narrate Our Planet as a one-off, to give the expensive — even by Netflix standards — program instant gravitas and global credibility. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the current TV landscape is such that Netflix can reach more viewers in a single week than BBC can over the course of an entire year.

That instant access to the global village is one reason Attenborough needed no convincing to exchange Broadcasting House in London for Netflix in Los Gatos, Calif.

In his later years, he has readily admitted to anyone who’ll listen that his raison d’être in later life is to convince anyone and everyone he can that our home world is in trouble and needs our help.

©Jamie McPherson/Silverback/Netflix

©Jamie McPherson/Silverback/Netflix

Netflix’s reach doesn’t exactly exceed its grasp, either: Our Planet could conceivably reach one billion people, something not even BBC can do.

Attenborough is the face and voice behind Our Planet, but not its primary inspiration and directing force. That would be veteran British producer Alastair Fothergill, who made Blue Planet and Planet Earth for BBC and has recently divided his time between BBC, Disney’s Disneynature film division (African Cats, Chimpanzee and the soon-to-be released Penguins, in theatres April 17) and now Netflix.

Fothergill, a Fellow of the British Royal Television Society and recipient of the Royal Geographical Society’s Cherry Keaton Medal, has been at the vanguard of socially conscious, environmentally aware nature filmmaking that seeks to be both entertaining and informative. Unlike Blue Planet, which touched only briefly on plastic’s effect on the world’s oceans, Our Planet’s entire focus is on the man-made threat to the natural world.

Early reviews in the UK — in the Daily Telegraph and Independent, for example — have grumbled that, beautiful as Our Planet is to watch, the overall effect is scattered and unfocused as a result. Fothergill would argue that, unlike Dynasties with its Shakespearean tales of kings and matriarchs facing rebellion and revenge from within, Our Planet is unified by a single, overpowering message: that everything is connected, that what affects the ice fields in Canada’s frozen north also affects the semi-arid deserts in Africa’s sun-parched south, not just Arctic bears and savannah elephants myriad microorganisms, smaller animals and pollinating insects that lie between.

©Mateo Willis/Silverback/Netflix

©Mateo Willis/Silverback/Netflix

“From every region of the world there are stories that reveal nature’s resilience and show how restoration is possible,” Attenborough says in his voice-over — a reminder once again how, over time, his soothing, reverential tones have a calming effect on this crazy world we live in.

There’s something joyful — and joyous — in the way Attenborough reads out loud. It’s one of the reasons, I suspect, why Blue Planet and Planet Earth have reached such a wide audience. He’s a born storyteller. It’s not hard to imagine that programs like Blue Planet and now Our Planet wouldn’t reach nearly as many people without Attenborough as their verbal guide and shepherd.

Our Planet is important because, while it doesn’t harangue and harass us at home the way a TED Talk might, it focuses on the most important threat to humanity — arguably the most important threat of our generation — in ways that both move and inspire.

©Jamie McPherson/Silverback/Netflix

©Jamie McPherson/Silverback/Netflix

Attenborough is the star but the last word, by rights, belongs to Fothergill.

“When Huw (Cordrey) and I both made Planet Earth, that series was about amazing scenery,” Fothergill recalled a number of years back at a Television Critics Association press session in Pasadena, Calif. for the then new BBC nature program The Hunt. “It was about taking the audience on a journey around the planet that they could never do in their lifetime.”

What he’s tried to do with Our Planet is combine that epic cinematic poetry with a potent, topical message about climate change, species diversity and the perilous balance of nature, and why all those things matter to our collective future on planet Earth, and to the planet itself.

Only time will tell if Our Planet — and we ourselves — succeed.



©Davos/Silverback/Netflix

©Davos/Silverback/Netflix