Planet Earth II could have been so much better

You know it to be true

I think we can all agree that since Planet Earth II has come to an end there is a sense of emptiness inside all of us.

The heart palpitations caused by scenes such as that of the water lizards have made me turn to more extreme things: smoking crack, debating feminists.

However, in this time of solace I have been able to reflect back on the series as a whole and I started to think to myself: do we really deserve wildlife programs? And if we do, then Planet Earth should have done a lot more.

On the 1st December the Telegraph announced viewing rates of Planet Earth among young people to be larger than X Factor’s. Thank fuck for that. This destroys the fallacy that young people are detached and uninterested – quite the contrary, it shows that we want to be educated and we have very good taste.

There’s only so many polished turds you can shove down our throats before we throw them back up into your face. After all Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice Media, said that Gen X and Y have the best bullshit detectors and this is proving to be true.

However, jubilations aside, the last episode of the series was unsettling.

‘Cities’ showed us the Falcon leasing the concrete jungle as its natural habitat and monkeys living in such affluence that it has changed their reproductive habits. It was in stark contrast to the rest of the season’s vast, open landscapes.

But it did seem fitting, since in my opinion traditional wildlife shows are a thing of the past, or at least they should be …


The episode seems to be a segue into a new culture surrounding wildlife, since the more traditional one is being culled – a kind of ‘This is what we should be expecting from future shows’.

However Planet Earth could have done an awful lot more.

The difference between time spent on discussing climate change compared to the new techniques used to film the series was huge and, I suppose, ironically significant: climate change is making it harder for us to actually capture wildlife, therefore we actively need to spend more time on cultivating progressive filming techniques. But even still, such a parallel was never alluded to.

In this way Planet Earth perpetuated the delusory aspect of wildlife shows – it’s a sort of zoological Romanticism, whereby we can escape the reality that the habitats captured are in a desperate state of atrophy.

But therein lies the paradox – if we see it on TV, if we are able to film it, then surely everything is fine?

I’m not suggesting the show should be a conservation program because no one would watch it. But it is for this reason, the fact that so many watched Planet Earth, that it’s in a great position to educate those who wouldn’t normally be attracted to ‘hardcore’ conservationist documentaries.

I think back to Leonardo Di Caprio’s Oscar acceptance speech, where he used the little time he had not to deliver a turgid speech on how far he has come, but to place his film in an environmental context and effectively say: ‘we won’t be able to have such beautiful films (the film had great, natural cinematography) if we carry on like this’. Think about how many people this would have affected, who wouldn’t normally contemplate such problems.

This is what I wanted from David Attenborough: if he had turned to us and said ‘this is great, but it won’t last forever’. I think in this way perhaps ‘Cities’ was a silent nod to such a desolate future.

I refer back to Shane Smith, whom I saw talk at a digital conference in Cologne. He said something extremely profound: it’s not that the youth aren’t interested in news, it’s how the news is presented that’s the problem.

In other words, I think many more people would be touched by Attenborough’s silky voice discussing serious problems whilst being cross cut with giraffes dropkicking lions in the face, rather than Al Gore’s apocalyptic ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.