• TLS Staff

Our Planet: Is This The Last Straw?

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

In Netflix's Our Planet, we see nature up close and yet, it is not like any other documentary

Today, especially when we are all quarantined in the confines of our homes and walls, we want to travel. We crave human contact but we also want to get far from it as possible because of these trying times. We are conflicted, but turning to nature is an option that all of us are okay with. If you were asked, in today’s situation: would you rather be at a party with all your friends with ample booze and take-out food or be on a cliff off the coast of Ireland, watching birds and clouds go by as the cold winds embrace you? You would pick the latter. Anybody would. We are all so scared of human contact that being alone, but in a better place than our home in a busy city is something we would rather be doing.

But, we can’t.

So we watch shows that make us feel or even imagine what it would be to see cormorants attacking the surface of the water, one after the other and yet all at once, to get to the anchovies.

Yes, I am referring to the opening scene of Our Planet, a Netflix series.

As much as it resembles Planet Earth and Planet Earth II by the BBC, mainly because it is narrated by the one and only David Attenborough, Our Planet is heaps different from the two.

For starters, it doesn’t give viewers a whitewashed view of the world we live in. Which many nature documentaries tend to do.

It establishes, right at the beginning that what we are seeing on the show is what is left to see in the wild.

It makes you squirm in your seat, as it shows you some of the most extraordinary sights in this world and tells you how precious they are.

But it is not at all such a show that will make you switch it off and watch something else on Netflix, as you try to absolve your guilt scouring through the platform like those elephants scouring in the scorching heat in Africa, looking for water pools, anywhere they can find.

And that is exactly how Our Planet works. It subtly keeps reminding you, through powerful scenes, the damage done by one species, in one lifetime.

As your screen fills with incredible scenes from the natural world: cheetahs hunting wildebeest, manakin birds performing their mating dances, thousands of greater flamingos rushing to fly and a Philippines fish eagle making its first attempt at flying, you wonder at the cycles of nature. How pure and raw it is and how everything fits perfectly like a cup in a saucer.

But as you see all of these scenes, you also see the glacial ice melting in Greenland in amounts your eyes cannot even gauge the enormity of and baby orangutans growing up in an unpredictable forest, whose fate depends in our hands, you wonder about your actions.

The most important thing though: the show stays with you. The sights and the subtle reminder to do your part in the slightest. This can be highlighted by the painful timelapse of the Borneo jungles transforming into oil-palm monocultures.

Right from the first episode, you see that everything in all the habitats and ecosystems that the show has explored, comes back in a full circle. From the mayflies to the humpback whales. Everything is connected and we are a part of the same chain. Sure, we parted our ways from the jungles and grasslands long ago but we made our way into holding their fate in the palm of our hands. Attenborough mentions that there lie still, parts of land and water that are untouched by humanity, such as Papua New Guinea and the protected lands of the Serengeti. Here, he says that if it is given space and time, wildlife will thrive. It will come back. But it will only happen if we let it. If we truly see this planet more than just ‘ours’.

Janaki Tulshibagwale

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