If you haven’t watched Our Planet on Netflix yet, you need to stop everything you’re doing and watch it now. The show is stunning - breathtaking imagery mixed with David Attenborough’s silky (yet gravelly) voice keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. But, unlike most nature documentaries, Our Planet does more than just show the beauty of Earth, it talks about the fragility of it. Scene after scene, Attenborough’s narration highlights the destruction happening all around us and the impact it has on our beautiful world. Destruction that is happening because of us.
Watching Our Planet was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me; I was in awe of the exotic jungles in the Congo, heartbroken over the death of a walrus (yes, I cried, judge me), and overall jealous that creating this show was someone’s job. But, more than anything, I was inspired by the conversation that the show is starting and hopeful that we can still change things for the better.
Here’s what I took away from my Our Planet binge-sesh:
We’re currently experiencing a big thaw
We’ve all heard about the major ice melt going on at the poles but it’s hard to get a true grasp of what that means. Our Planet dives into this topic and talks about how the warming waters are impacting species’ ability to survive - from fish to seals to polar bears (like I mentioned earlier, I literally cried during the walrus bit). It also explains how the ice keeps our planet cool by reflecting the sun’s rays off of the planet so the loss of that ice means that not only are our oceans warming, but the planet as a whole is as well.
Deforestation is happening everywhere
The facts about the forests and jungles actually blew my mind; we’re losing tropical forest at a rate of 15 MILLION HECTARES (that’s ~37MM acres) every year. But it doesn’t stop there. The redwood forest in California has shrunk dramatically thanks of human activity - only 5% of what was once there still remains. As a result, the animals that called these places home are facing extreme challenges and many populations are dying off due to habitat loss. Orangutans, for instance, are dying at a rate of one hundred per week.
Deforestation will go on to impact more than just animals though - jungles store and capture more carbon than any other habitat. And since we’re putting more carbon into the air now than ever, this will become a huge problem.
The vastness of our oceans doesn’t make them indestructible
For a long time, we thought that the oceans were so big that nothing we could do would hurt them. We’re now finding out that we were wrong. The warming water temperatures are impacting countless ocean species. Like our coral reefs, of which 50% have died worldwide and it’s anticipated that they will be the first major ecosystem to completely disappear. On top of the warming temperatures, the amount of fishing we’ve done has drastically impacted the food chain. By taking most of the prey fish for ourselves, predators are having difficulty finding food. Shark populations have reduced by 90% due to over fishing.
Our oceans are extremely important; they control the weather and are responsible for transporting fresh water across the globe. If we don’t take care of them the effects will be disastrous (think of the recent extreme weather, droughts and water shortages we’ve heard about across the globe).
Our planet is amazing at rebuilding itself
Over the past fifty years, we’ve seen a 60% decrease in wildlife populations globally. But, there is hope. Our planet has an amazing ability to rebound when given the opportunity. We’re seeing this play out in places all across the globe: a shark sanctuary in Indonesia has seen its shark population grow to 25 times what it was a decade ago. Meanwhile, tiger populations in India have increased by 13x thanks to habitat protection over the past fifty years.
Despite everything we’ve done that has negatively impacted our planet, there’s so much we can still do to save it. The team from Our Planet outlined what we need to do in simple terms: make sure that everything we do, we can do forever. This includes using green energy (think wind and solar), being smarter about what we eat (less meat), taking care of our oceans (more sanctuaries) and enabling our planet to rewild itself. By making small changes and being more conscious about what we buy, eat and use, we can make a big difference.
Have you seen Our Planet? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!