SOLUTIONS: Virtual exploration of our world

By Huck Fairman

Since most of us can neither safely travel for exploration, nor want to, given the risks, another way to see our planet is available on the streaming service Discovery+. Its five episodes of “A Perfect Planet” will “examine the forces of nature that shape all life.” These include sunlight, weather, oceans, volcanoes and ourselves, the most recently arrived of these forces.

The series guide and narrator is well-known Sir David Attenborough, long the voice of knowledge about our habitats and species. At age 94 he is not slowing down. The series was filmed in 31 countries over four years.

The focus of the series is not climate change but rather is “the extraordinary resiliency of the natural world” and how so many things “mesh” together to flourish. He does observe, however, that the one benefit of the pandemic is that it has made many people more aware of the “fragility and value” of the natural world. As a biologist he has also long been aware of species’ life spans, but he is not overly concerned with his own. What does worry him is the burden left to succeeding generations of cleaning up or reversing the destruction we have visited upon the planet.

Perhaps if people see even parts of this series, they will appreciate more deeply what we have.

The series takes viewers to the Mid-East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. The film crew was witness to six volcanoes and came close to large Russian bears, giant tortoises, and all shapes and colors of birds.

While the series does not deal with climate change, Attenborough himself does acknowledge that he was demoralized by President Donald Trump’s pulling the country out of the global climate accord, but then “jumped out of his chair” when he heard that Joe Biden had won and will re-introduce this country to international efforts – something that Attenborough deems as “absolutely crucial to the survival of the natural world.”

While he emphasizes the resiliency of the natural world, he does acknowledge that not every species survives through the millennia. In speaking about “rock-hopper penguins,” Attenborough does give a nod to the roles that “judgment and luck” play in both the penguins’ future and in his own career. He feels unusually fortunate in having been able to travel the world and see many of its wonders.

At the same time, he confesses that the pictures, the visual recordings, of all the many species he has encountered, are by themselves the real gifts to the rest of us. They provide us with the vivid imprints of this world we live in. We don’t really need the words; just the images of all these creatures we share the planet with.