Real life on Earth

Real life on Earth


boy with animals

I am constantly amazed, in my business of turning up in different places in order to film some obscure bird or other, to meet people all over the world who have seen some of my programmes and who vividly remember, and talk about, the animals they saw. Rather, I am both amazed, and not amazed. For there is no mystery in the almost universal interest in television films about natural history and the environment.

Unlike so much of what is on television, such films are about reality. They are not about commercial people trying to promote a product, or political people trying to persuade you that they are right, or about silly glamorous people. They are about real people tackling real life.

We are often not aware of the reality of what goes on elsewhere, and so tend to adopt glib answers to problems of which we have little personal comprehension. Television can be a great connector, bringing a broader and deeper sympathy than was there before. It is seen by the most educated and the least educated, by people who speak all languages, everywhere in the world.

BBC World television is now broadcasting a weekly environment and development series - called Earth Report - to try to increase this understanding of the real world. Produced, on a strictly editorially independent basis, by the Television Trust for the Environment (TVE) and the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF International), the series aims to be a viewer's report card on how well the world is doing to meet the targets set by the Earth Summit in Rio four years ago. I am delighted to introduce each programme.

The five-minute stories range from a promising new method of farming to save mountain gorillas like those I visited in Life on Earth, to the ecological catastrophe enveloping the Black Sea, from a crisis in coral reefs in the Caribbean to community action to combat pollution in Peru and the Ukraine. Other programmes will consider how 'green' will be the Olympic Games in Sydney in the year 2000, describe citizens' initiatives to make life better for the poor in Calcutta, look at increasing pressures on the Mediterranean, and show how threatened species are making comebacks in Saudi Arabia and Patagonia.

It began with start-up funding from UNEP and UNICEF, which made possible 12 pilot programmes. These were well received, not least by the BBC which had found a strong demand in Asia, the Middle East and Africa for more coverage of wildlife and environmental issues. The BBC says it had no hesitation in turning to TVE to meet that demand: since it was set up by UNEP and Central Television 12 years ago, it has established a worldwide reputation for its independent, high-quality programmes.

The series has been made possible by the generosity of WWF and the MacArthur Foundation, which have provided more than half the $900,000 it is costing to provide a regular service. Other finance has come from such sources as the Global Environment Facility, the World Health Organization, UNEP, and the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention.

The series is produced by a Colombian, Marc de Beaufort, and local film crews have almost always been used in the 30 developing nations and former Eastern Bloc countries so far visited. A team of women film-makers is producing programmes on issues considered at the United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Cairo two years ago.

I am particularly pleased that the programmes will also be seen by many more people even than those English-speakers who tune into BBC World: in fact, the vast majority of viewers will get them in their own languages on their terrestrial television channels. The BBC will make Arabic and Japanese versions. AETI, operating from Madrid, will beam the reports in Spanish and Portuguese to public service broadcasters in Latin America. WWF and TVE will be distributing them in local languages through their own networks.

I hope that people will feel that these programmes give them an insight into the most important problems that face them in the real world. We cannot, after all, migrate to another planet. We all have a part to play in preserving the one we have got.

Sir David Attenborough - whose Life on Earth, Trials of Life and Secret Life of Plants are among the most popular programmes ever broadcast - is on the board of TVE and is a former Controller of BBC 2. He has given his services free to Earth Report.



Home | Contributors | Hot Links |
Feedback - Environment Forum | Subscription | Mailing List

In case of difficulties with this site please contact the webmaster at:

Copyrightę1999 Banson
All rights reserved.