See hu­man­ity’ s latest dis­as­ter in great style

Muck about with earth’ s vast web and ex­pect reper­cus­sions else­where

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Leigh Day­ton

Strange Days on Planet Earth 8.35pm, ABC

CLI­MATE change scep­tics and Aunty bash­ers, take note. Tonight the ABC be­gins a four- part se­ries called Strange Days on Planet Earth and you ’ ll hate it.

This 2004 Na­tional Ge­o­graphic pro­duc­tion dis­misses quib­bles about global warm­ing and hu­man­ity ’ s role in the same with a quick the de­bate

‘‘ is largely over ’’ , tossed out right up front. It then goes on to count the many ways we hu­mans are stuff­ing up the planet.

Worse, the se­ries com­mits th­ese and other po­lit­i­cally cor­rect sins in style. The graph­ics are great. The wildlife and na­ture footage is stun­ning. The nar­ra­tion by Amer­i­can ac­tor Ed­ward Nor­ton is re­strained, in keep­ing with the con­tent. So is the sound­track, which al­lows poignant au­dio — such as the cry of a deer, at­tacked by wolves — to hit home.

More­over, in­di­vid­ual episodes are not sim­ply a re­view of se­lected sci­en­tific find­ings about the topic du jour. In­stead, seem­ingly dis­parate phe­nom­ena are pre­sented and even­tu­ally drawn to­gether. The mes­sage? Global sys­tems — ge­o­log­i­cal, bi­o­log­i­cal, at­mo­spheric and oceanic — are in­ter­con­nected. Muck about with one part of the earth ’s vast web and ex­pect reper­cus­sions else­where. Tonight, for in­stance,

The One De­gree Fac­tor takes view­ers to Por­cu­pine River in west­ern Alaska where we fol­low the sea­sonal mi­gra­tions of the re­gion ’ s de­clin­ing herd of cari­bou. ( Keep an eye out for the no- frills birth of a cari­bou.) Next we join sci­en­tists in­ves­ti­gat­ing shift­ing pop­u­la­tions of tide- pool an­i­mals along the US west coast and oth­ers track­ing the shift­ing abun­dance of tiny shrimp- like marine an­i­mals called krill.

We travel to Trinidad, where the rate of child­hood asthma has sky­rock- eted, and ob­serve dy­ing sea fan corals of the US Vir­gin Is­lands. Mean­while, over in Africa, Nige­ria ’ s Lake Chad has shrunk to zip.

Stay tuned for a foren­sic anal­y­sis of how th­ese events are in­ter­twined and you ’ ll for­give the pro­duc­ers for their re­lent­less north­ern per­spec­tive, from im­pe­rial mea­sures such as Fahren­heit to vox pops with rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amer­i­cans. Later episodes tackle feral species, as well as toxic wa­ter­ways and seas in sim­i­lar style. But episode two,

Preda­tors, i s t he cracker. It re­veals what hap­pens when the big guns of the an­i­mal world are taken out, by ac­ci­dent or de­sign. I con­fess to a snif­fle watch­ing Venezue­lan ex­perts res­cue an­i­mals — from sloths, mon­keys and in­sects to leop­ards — when a river is dammed, turn­ing their jun­gle habi­tat into de­nuded is­lands.

In con­trast, it ’ s heart­en­ing to fol­low the rein­tro­duc­tion of 31 grey wolves to Yel­low­stone Na­tional Park. Even the As­pen trees are mak­ing a come­back. Re­mem­ber, as Nor­ton says, it ’ s all con­nected.

Strange Days:

Boat stranded on Lake Chad, Nige­ria

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