Saving our Wild Isles Review: Perfectly Pitched
One of the most influential public engagement events of recent years was the TV series Blue Planet II, presented by the peerless legend David Attenborough, whose evocative imagery of wildlife caught in ocean plastic made people face up to the impacts we have on the natural world. Attenborough’s latest series, Wild Isles, looking at British and Irish wildlife, came with an extra episode on the BBC iPlayer, called Saving Our Wild Isles, looking at the threats to our domestic wildlife and what can be done. The fact that this episode wasn’t broadcast on the TV schedules created its own controversy with some claiming that the BBC was running scared of the Government.
Whatever the truth of the matter, it is a real shame that this won’t get the same audience as the main series, as it is pitch perfect. The same, luscious camera work that showed off the best of our natural world was used to show its destruction – the live-action shots of scallop dredging was particularly heart wrenching. But for each of these pictures of doom, we were presented with a glimmer of hope – at how things can been done differently if we really want to change our course. So we got a lot on alternative farming practices, tree planting and diving for scallops.
I am all for this tone of engagement. Impending catastrophe is not a spur to action – the public needs to know that we must fix things, we know what to do, we just need to scale it up. David Attenborough is a genuine national treasure, and thus a trusted narrator. But the fact that the story was told through the eyes of charismatic wildlife is probably the clincher.
I find climate science is often too ephemeral for true public engagement – explaining how concentrations of an invisible gas found in tiny quantities in the atmosphere can alter global weather patterns takes a leap of faith, and thus creates space for the climate denial movement to fill with a fog of misinformation. But you can see the damage caused by scallop dredging, you can see dead animals, you can see deforestation – and you can see the results of the ecological fixes. Once you have people hooked on the tangible, you can expand the conversation to the less visible threats.
Saving Our Wild Isles is not just a TV show, it is also a call to arms with a programme of individual action to follow. Again, this floats my boat as too many environmentalists deny the need for personal behaviour change in Sustainability – it’s all the fault of the Government, Big Oil or a shibboleth like ‘neoliberalism’. Yes, they’re all to ‘blame’, but, in the same way we are part of our environment, we also play our part in the socio-economic system and every pound, euro or dollar we spend is a choice (no neoliberal ever forced me to eat a steak). Individual action, and, importantly, permission to change things, is essential. Acting is a far deeper form of engagement than watching, reading or listening.
In summary, to me, Saving Our Wild Isles is a perfect piece of engagement and it is a crying shame that it was not broadcast on primetime TV like the rest of the series.