Environment as Entertainment: should it be more?

Who wasn't impressed by the latest sumptuous offering from the BBC, complete with David Attenborough's compelling narrative? Blue Planet 2 arrived on our TV screens last Sunday, and its success in securing viewing figures in excess of Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor will have been celebrated in the corridors of power at the Corporation.

It was, as we've come to expect, even better, more eye-catching than all of the Attenborough programmes that have preceded it. Innovative new camera technology offered us new, dramatic insights into the lives of species so fantastical that people were discussing them for days afterwards. For a prime time slot on a Sunday night, it was compelling viewing. We watched it, as a family, utterly spellbound.

So, why am I left uncomfortable at what I saw and my reaction to it? 

It was a programme full of beautiful images, with a smattering of facts, too. It touched on some uncomfortable truths about the impact that our lifestyles are having on fragile ecosystems and their dependent species. But, facts alone don't convince individuals to change their lifestyles - for these are deep-rooted, 'hard-wired' habits, norms and systems.

Does the BBC have a responsibility to go beyond information, using communication to let the receiver of the information grasp the intended meaning of the message, i.e. to get through to them? Clearly, it is not a campaigning organisation but, by changing the language in order to engage people and nudge behaviour, it could build a narrative.

When TV programmes raise difficult issues, it is now common for a statement at their conclusion, along the lines of "If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme..." So, why not the same for ecosystem degradation and climate change? The polar bear or walrus, struggling to find pack ice, can't ask for help!

If we expect TV crews to venture to remote locations, to film fragile systems for our entertainment, shouldn't we be thinking carefully about our collective duty to do things differently in response to what we are witnessing? Otherwise, are we not simply indulging ourselves in environmental pornography?  


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