About two weeks ago I noted that the American Discovery Channel had purchased six of the seven segments of David Attenborough’s wonderful BBC One documentary, “Frozen Planet.” Tellingly, the unbought episode dealt with anthropogenic global warming and its devastating effect on polar life. When I and other readers complained about this, the Discovery Channel dissimulated, saying that “the stories, messages and essence of all of the BBC’s seven episodes will be represented throughout the truly landmark series.”
Well, we weren’t the only ones to complain. According to various sources, including Britain’s Telegraph and the American site MediaMatters, Discovery has backed down and will show the last episode after all. Undoubtedly viewer complaints are the reason, particularly a petition by change.org that garnered nearly 84,000 signatures. But our little bit may have helped, too.
A lot of people are going to watch this show, which airs in the U.S. in March. I only hope that the Telegraph’s assessment of this episode proves correct:
The airing of the final episode of Frozen Planet will have a huge impact on the ongoing debate about global warming.
Attenborough, after all, is seen as a reliable, trustworthy, and avuncular figure, not a tree-hugging firebrand. His opinion on this may do for global warming what Walter Cronkite’s opposition to the Vietnam war did to American feelings about our futile involvement in that conflict.
Discovery still seems to be spin-doctoring a bit, though. MediaMatters reports:
Discovery had previously said they would make sure to include some discussion of climate change in the other episodes, which trace the exceptional seasonal cycle in the Arctic and Antarctica. But Dr. Mark Brandon, who served as an academic consultant on the series, said that it’s important to put climate change information in a separate installment to make clear “the difference between the largest seasonal change on the planet and the observations of longer term change.”
Expect a cautious treatment of climate change in the episode. In a May hearing of the House of Lords, Attenborough — previously a skeptic of manmade climate change — said of Frozen Planet:
“I don’t believe it’s controversial, the only controversial element in climate change is to what degree it’s anthropocentric, what degree humans have been responsible, but the facts of climate change are scientifically established facts and I don’t think we go beyond that.”
Dr. Brandon has also indicated that the episode will not focus on the human influence on climate:
“If you were to imagine an episode where people just talked about, you know, humans are doing this, humans are doing that, that wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the story. What would make perfect sense if you’re telling the story of the polar regions is to talk about how they’re changing in the context of the animals and the environments that you’ve shown through the previous six hours of episodes.”
Brandon’s last sentence is pure weaselling. He sounds not like a scientist, but a politician—his incoherence resembles that of Sarah Palin. (Brandon is a lecturer in environmental science at the Open University.)
The “controversial” last episode, “On thin ice,” will air in the UK at 9 pm on BBC One today (and will be repeated on Sunday), so you Brits be sure to see it and report back.
h/t: Nick, Grania