Trailer: Hostile Planet

April 3, 2019

Outside Online:

Early in the first episode of Hostile Planet, an ambitious six-part nature series that will premiere tonight on National Geographic, viewers are introduced to a pair of barnacle geese and their trio of fuzzy chicks. The chicks happened to have been hatched atop a remote rock spire in Greenland, in a nest made in haste as their parents adapted to an early spring that disrupted their typical migration and nesting patterns. Unfortunately for the as-yet flightless goslings, food and water are on the valley floor some 400 feet below their aerie. It’s a long, perilous drop, and predators await. Cue shot of a hungry fox.

“If the chicks don’t feed within 36 hours, they’ll starve, [but] these chicks won’t be able to fly for another month,” says host and narrator Bear Grylls, his voice familiar though not exactly comforting. “There is a solution, just not an easy one.” And then, as dramatic music kicks in, the chicks begin their seemingly suicidal plunges, flapping their useless winglets as they fall. It’s not giving away too much for a series with “hostile” in the title to reveal that not all the youngsters make it—in that scene and many others. “With the seasons increasingly unpredictable, fewer chicks will survive,” Grylls narrates. “A changing climate is affecting life in mountains across the world.”

The series is stunningly beautiful, but also not shy about highlighting the Darwinian harshness that comes with that beauty. The natural world here is awe-inspiring, yes, but far from benign; it’s less “mother nature” and more “nature is a motherfucker.” “We didn’t try to sweeten the story or put more hope into it than there is—we wanted it to show people the reality,” says executive producer Tom Hugh-Jonesan Emmy-winning veteran of the BBC Natural History Unit who worked on both Planet Earth and Planet Earth II. In Hostile Planet, he saw a chance to make the nature documentary’s next evolution, utilizing every aspect of filmmaking, from the soundtrack to the editing to the cutting-edge camerawork, in order to move beyond the somewhat more prim David Attenborough format and tell a more urgent story. (Coincidentally, Netflix is also releasing a climate-change-focused nature documentary this week, Our Planet, narrated by Attenborough.) “We wanted to make something that was more current, both in the way we told the story and the way we addressed the situation that we are all facing on this planet.”

Hostile Planet interweaves stories from across the seven continents, grouping them together thematically in each episode by type of ecosystem—mountains, oceans, grasslands, jungles, deserts, polar—many featuring animals struggling with new uncertainty. They are adapted evolutionarily to a certain set of expectations about when the seasons will change and when the storms will arrive, about when they should begin a migration and what other animals they can expect to find at their journey’s end. Increasing unpredictability, however, undermines those assumptions, which can have dire results. “The aspiration is to show how the animals are managing to cope in such a fast-changing world,” Grylls told me. “Life is hard on the edge for animals anyway, but the edge is just getting harder and sharper because of what’s happening with climate change and weather extremes.” The planet is changing. Animals are adapting where they can, dying where they can’t.

3 Responses to “Trailer: Hostile Planet”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Sensational “….Nature red in tooth and claw” will always get the viewer numbers up, and this looks like an entertaining and hopefully educational series.

    I worry more about the bees that no longer come to my yard—-they apparently haven’t “managed to cope in such a fast-changing world” and have just disappeared.

  2. J4Zonian Says:

    National Geographic is owned by right wing extremist Rupert Murdoch, and the Darwinist images reflect conservative feelings of neglect or abandonment, isolation, terror in what’s seen as a harsh world one has to face alone… battling ones’ way up the patriarchal hierarchy. (Extrapolation from George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, and other works)

    To people who feel this way because of their life history and resulting psychology, and then mistake it for worldwide conditions, Darwinism justifies social Darwinism. The more such images reinforce that ideology among the overwhelmingly white, rich and male inheritors of both worldview and wealth, the more exceptional, and therefore deserving they believe themselves to be. (Fundamental attribution error, among others) Through what Gregory Bateson saw as this epistemological mistake, people so afflicted imagine their internal condition to be externally caused so completely that they then cause it in the world–projective identification or dreaming up. The most extreme instance of this so far is climate catastrophe. Since they can’t be cured in the time we have left, they have to be removed from the decision-making processes of the world.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      WHOA! More of Jeffy’s psychobabble, but it DOES make some sense, even though (as usual) he gives no plan for removing THEM from the decision-making processes of the world.

      (And what about my missing bees?)

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