‘Planet In Peril’: Review of Part 1

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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.

http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/planet.in.peril/

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7 Responses to ‘Planet In Peril’: Review of Part 1

  1. matt says:

    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. 😦

  2. Pete Smith says:

    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.

  3. Trinifar says:

    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.

  4. Pete Smith says:

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

  5. Sarah says:

    I don’t understand the critisism to a very well-made film which intended to create more awareness about the plight of our planet… how pretentious! I applaud mainstream media for showing us what most of us want to ignore. Perhaps the information was too much for some people to really tap into their feelings. The suffering of these animal, particularly the bears in tiny cages unable to move so that bile can be extracted from them twice a day for traditional chinese medicine. Even though this made me sick, I had to more research and now I am trying to create more awareness about this torture. An estimated 14,000 bears are in these horrible conditions in Asia. Bears are reported to chew their limbs and hold their stomachs due to the extreme pain. http://www.animalasia.org or http://www.wspa-international.org

  6. matt says:

    Pete may have been a little harsh in his review. Personally I haven’t seen it.

  7. strumpfhosen says:

    To show that the globe is truly hot, flat, and crowded, the documentary examines the major threat of species loss due to global warming, conflicts raging in some countries due to overpopulation, and links a drastic, yet really tiny, change on the other side of the world to something much closer to home and shows distance does not

    The show begins with marvelous and beautiful scenery of different ecosystems around the world, and Cooper traveling to Bangkok to examine the widespread, illegal trade of endangered species. Immediately afterwards, the show examines a small lizard in the thick forests of Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot with only 10% of its natural environment remaining, which might be a completely new species, and highlights the effects of the introduction or loss of a species from a habitat. After that, Cooper is back to the U.S., and shown examining the reintroduction of the Gray Wolf at Yellowstone National Park. A natural predator of elk and bison, the Gray Wolf has brought harmony back into that ecosystem so the other species can flourish in the newly stable environment. The team then travels to Cambodia to inspect the dwindling tiger population due to relentless poaching, and the ensuing effects on the surroundings. Then we are taken on a journey to China to learn about its impact on pollution

    China’s population has exploded at 1000%, along with its consumption. It is the largest CO2 emitter in the world, has sixteen of the globe’s most polluted cities, and has roughly two new coal power plants built in a week.

    Greenland is on the list next, with its melting ice and diminishing polar bear population and drowning small creatures. From Greenland, we were taken to the islands known as the Carteret’s, whose population is expected to be the first “climate change refugees” due to rapidly rising sea levels and diminishing shoreline. The final thing Cooper, Gupta, and Corwin examined was Lake Chad

    . At one point the 6th largest lake in the world, Lake Chad is now rapidly drying up and putting the 37 million people who relied on it in desperate misery.

    Pleased by the great reviews and response and encouragement, CNN decided to air the second part, titled “Planet in Peril: Battle Lines,” in early December of last year. It further examined all of the topics from the first part in October of 2007, but added more essential topics related to the environment, like shark hunting, deadly viruses in Africa, conflicts due to oil in Nigeria, and the dwindling population of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda

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