Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

‘Planet In Peril’: Review of Part 1

with 4 comments


Presenters Billy Bragg and Mark Viduka show their emotional involvement in the issues

Well I’ve ploughed through the first part of CNN’s much-vaunted eco-documentary ‘Planet In Peril’, and I wasn’t that impressed. A series of episodes filmed around the world, loosely linked by a cobbled-together ‘theme’ of interlinked ecosystems under threat from human exploitation, it kicked off with a slot about illegal wildlife trading in Thailand. After 15 minutes of shaky footage of sad caged creatures and police raids, we were off to Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot with only 10% of its natural environment remaining. We followed a Conservation International RAP (Rapid Assessment Program) team as they surveyed the forest for rare species. Inevitably, a tiny lizard was found which might or might not be a completely new species. After a brief aside on the economic pressures driving the locals to over-exploit their environment, we were off again, this time to the US.

Yellowstone Park is a “pristine ecosystem”, and we reviewed the progress of the re-introduction of the grey wolf in 1995. A natural predator for elk and bison, the wolf has brought about a ‘trophic cascade’ benefiting all levels of the ecosystem. After establishing the vital role of the high-level carnivore in maintaining ecosystems, we went to Cambodia where a small team of park rangers funded by the Wildlife Alliance are struggling to keep tiger poachers at bay. Collateral damage from indiscriminate laying of snares has reduced the population of wild elephants in Cambodia to 2-3000. The Asian elephant is a “keystone species”.

Tigers are hunted for their supposedly therapeutic body parts, so our next visit was to China, the world’s number one destination for illegal wildlife. Apparently, “the Chinese will eat anything”. Despite swift punishment and hefty fines for selling endangered species, the trade continues to grow. Traditional Chinese medicine is driving species to extinction, leading on to a discussion of general resource exploitation, shortages, pollution and health problems. Cancer is the leading cause of death in China. Finally, back to the USA for a slot on “body burden” testing, highlighting the accumulation of pollutants and toxins in the human body and their effects on health.

All a bit of a muddle really, but how refreshing to see a 90 minute (excluding adverts) documentary about the environment that didn’t mention global warming once. That is still to come in Part 2. Sadly, I can’t find any trace of that having been uploaded to P2P. Perhaps the guy who uploaded Part 1 lost the will to live after watching it.


4 Responses

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  1. Guess we have to give the Americans a little time to settle into the wonders of effective international TV reportage. CNN news has often leaned towards disaster-flick montage. However with that Australian fella staking out the competition, it’s probably fair to assume US TV news (and maybe by extension documentry) reporting won’t be getting too indepth anytime soon. Then there’s the small question of BBC cutbacks in these areas this side of the pond. 😦


    October 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm

  2. I may have done CNN a slight injustice. Any documentary that bandies about phrases like “trophic cascade” obviously has higher than usual expectations of its audience.

    Pete Smith

    October 28, 2007 at 5:14 pm

  3. I agree with your criticisms, but am still delighted that the mainstream media even bothered to produce a piece like this. I’ll take what I can get.


    November 5, 2007 at 2:40 am

  4. Point taken Trinifar. I suppose we’ve been spoilt by the continuing high standard of programs put out by the BBC.

    Pete Smith

    November 5, 2007 at 7:00 pm

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