Last night I caught up with #ALifeOnOurPlanet on Netflix. Massive kudos to David Attenborough for the great shift he has made. Just two years ago, he called such film-making a “turn-off”. But here he confronts us directly and unflinchingly with the facts.
When I spoke to him in 2016, he was dismissive of #rewilding. Now he calls on us to “rewild the world”. To change your opinion so far, so late in life, is a remarkable thing, and I honour him for it.
Vertical farming will not make any significant contribution to feeding the world (and most such ventures already seem to have failed).
He takes no account of demographic momentum, which means his claim that we can radically alter the human population trajectory is misplaced.
But overall, it’s an excellent film. It was great to see him promoting the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, and the crucial challenge of reducing the area of land and sea required to feed us, then rewilding the spared places, drawing down carbon.
It has, though, reignited my anger with the BBC. For 25 years it flatly refused to make such films. This has now changed. But from c.1992 until 2018, proposals for docs like this were rejected out of hand, usually with a string of expletives, by the BBC’s channel controllers.
Producers I knew emerged in tears from such meetings, having been sworn at and shouted at by the BBC’s controllers for the temerity of proposing environmental programmes. Production companies that specialised in them either went bust or switched to reality TV.
As a result, the BBC (and Channel 4) completely failed during this era to represent the reality of what was happening on Earth. In fact, they actively suppressed it. Why? Because environmental messages are counter-aspirational. It was all about fame and fads and fashion.
In my view, the organisation most responsible for preventing the rapid and effective environmental action we needed in the UK was not Exxon, not the Conservative Party, not even the Murdoch empire. It was the BBC.
By shutting down the subject, creating the impression that all was well and we could party on, the BBC (and Channel 4) issued the fossil fuel companies, and consumerism in general, with their social licence to operate. We should not forget this, or forgive it.
Now this has changed, and the BBC, like Netflix, is finally making strong environmental programmes again. But we will never recover those 25 years.
And I fear that we will never recover *from* them.
A handful of environmental docs did slip through the net during this period. But they were so awful that it would have been better if they hadn't been made. Their quality reflects the loss of expertise caused by the controllers' war on this content. See:
As that article documents, they were so misleading as to be counter-productive. Altogether, a massive fail by the BBC for 25 years, on both quantity and quality.
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