BBC Earth proves pod­casts can be as stim­u­lat­ing as TV doc­u­men­taries

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - AUDIO | REVIEWS - SARAHMARIAGRIFFIN

One of my favourite tele­vi­sion shows to curl up in front of is Planet Earth. The sooth­ing qual­ity of David At­ten­bor­ough’s voice, the sprawl­ing im­agery cou­pled with the knowl­edge that the viewer will get to see parts of the planet they could never oth­er­wise lay eyes on. It’s holis­tic. Here, in the BBC Earth

Pod­cast, we get a slightly dif­fer­ent an­gle on that ex­pe­ri­ence, but one that’s no less rich for its lack of im­agery.

What the team at BBC Earth have done is de­velop a short magazine show – about a half-hour long – that suc­cinctly cap­tures the trans­port­ing feel­ing one gets from watch­ing a pow­er­ful na­ture doc­u­men­tary, but in au­dio. The first of the two ex­ist­ing episodes hangs on the premise of Be­gin­nings: among other sub­jects, it looks at the dawn cho­rus and an artist who cre­ates work with that sound. The sound­scape of the birds singing and the in­ter­view with the artist is wholly im­mer­sive: we don’t need to see the birds, or the for­est where they live. The at­ten­tion to au­dio de­tail here is enough to stim­u­late your imag­i­na­tion and senses in­stead.

In a very lim­ited episode time, we are taken on sev­eral to­tally unique cap­sule sto­ries, two very unique des­ti­na­tions, ex­am­in­ing phe­nom­ena both hu­man and emo­tional, as well as of the nat­u­ral world. There is a seg­ment which fo­cuses on an army vet­eran whose life was torn apart by ex­treme post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, and his re­cov­ery process, which in­volved bee­keep­ing. The thrum­ming buzz of the hive en­riches and grounds the story – it helps place us as lis­ten­ers into his ex­pe­ri­ence, and his heal­ing. Cli­mate cri­sis

The show isn’t averse to look­ing at the cli­mate cri­sis: it dis­cusses wild­fire and flood­ing within the magazine seg­ments. It is a re­ally pow­er­ful means of show­ing how the world has be­come, with­out preach­ing. Lis­ten­ing to jour­nal­ism of this qual­ity about na­ture may help us pay keener at­ten­tion to how we in­habit a world un­der cli­mate change.

The sec­ond episode is about iso­la­tion. A seg­ment about un­der­ground caves is ut­terly trans­port­ing as well as fas­ci­nat­ing and strangely emo­tional. It could be the se­lec­tion of sto­ries placed into each episode or the sound-de­sign, but what­ever it is about th­ese sto­ries of life on the planet, there is a huge feel­ing of heart.

The fi­nal two seg­ments on the Iso­la­tion episode moved me to tears, and nei­ther was about a hu­man be­ing. The BBC Earth

Pod­cast man­ages to be both ed­u­ca­tional and philo­soph­i­cal, at once. If you do lis­ten to it, it will warm you in th­ese dark months and re­mind you there’s a big­ger world out there.

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