Netflix recently released a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough, the famed nature documentarian. While there are plenty of nature documentaries out there, and many narrated by Attenborough, Our Planet is different because of the loss it highlights. The world’s population of vertebrates has declined by an average of 60 percent, mainly due to human development, deforestation, overfishing and climate change. Our Planet highlights the loss that humans are responsible for.
The documentary was produced in part with WWF, the international wildlife conservation nonprofit and their voice of advocacy is present throughout the series.
In one study, a group of researchers tried to determine the weight of all of the life on Earth, taking into account what was missing. They found that the weight of land mammals is seven times lower now than it was before the arrival of humans. For marine mammals, whales included, are one-fifth of their previous weight because of how many were hunted into near extinction.
While nature documentaries can narrate the loss of wildlife populations due to climate change, it’s hard actually to show the enormity of these losses. Our Planet does so while still displaying the beauty that is left. In one episode, the show switches from Attenborough discussing the adaptability of carnivorous plants in Borneo to a time-lapse animation taken from space, highlighting how in the last 50 years, the island has lost half of its forest. Another episode lingers on the bleached, dying corals located in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the series comes when the camera shows a huge group of walruses gathered on a tiny piece of dry because of the shrinking ice in the Arctic. Because the group is so crowded, some walruses take to climbing a tall cliff to get away from the crowd. When the walruses need to climb down the cliff to feed, they can’t. Instead, all 2,000 pounds of the walrus falls painfully down the steep cliff, almost as if being pushed by humans.
The use of beautiful cinematography and shots taken during the golden hour of late afternoon give the feeling of the sun setting and night falling on our planet, a visual metaphor of the devastation caused by climate change.
In a world that has about a decade left to make any meaningful changes to combat climate change, showcasing how much we stand to lose is incredibly poignant.