A new report commissioned by BAFTA, and based on an analysis of a year’s worth of TV programmes in the UK, found that among non-news content, references to climate change were fewer than those for “cake”, “beer” or, predictably, “Brexit”. Important though those things all undoubtedly are, it seems odd that a topic as significant as the future of our planet does not feature more prominently in the content we consume. BAFTA concluded that TV shows should have more plot lines and references to climate change, in order to help change people’s attitudes.
It is certainly hard to think of a more pressing concern, as scientists warn that we have just 12 years to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5C in order to prevent serious droughts and flooding. Consumption habits are slowly changing, as disposable coffee cups are swapped for reusable ones, plastic straws are increasingly denied and more and more people are consciously choosing to reduce or remove meat from their diet altogether, with 1 in 8 identifying as vegetarian or vegan and 1 in 5 adopting a ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle. But as we reach crunch time for climate change how are content providers dealing with the topic? Amid a growing appetite for this theme to be explored through different media, we’ve highlighted three examples that have caught our eye.
On the 5th of April this year, all eight episodes of new documentary series Our Planet were released on Netflix. Predicted to have received 25 million viewers by the end of its first month, its breathtaking scenes of oceans, deserts and rainforest wildlife accompanied by David Attenborough’s much-loved narration, moved and educated viewers. Created in partnership with WWF and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Our Planet actively encourages viewers to consider the future of the environment by reminding us of its fragile beauty and demonstrating the devasting effects of global warming on the natural world. A particularly distressing scene featured a group of walruses falling to their death from a cliff, exhausted by their search for food due to the ice caps they usually reside on melting. Aiming to strike the right balance between entertainment and education, Fothergill has stated that the programme was not intended to be political or to ‘wag a finger’, but simply to show people what is happening by stating the facts. The Netflix release will ensure the series reaches a global audience, including a group particularly enamoured by SVOD and increasingly interested in preserving the planet they are inheriting, 16-30 year olds
This is not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook
Originally intended to be released in September, This is not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook has been rushed into publishing by Penguin Books following the protests in London, and is now set to be released by June 3rd. Described by the authors as a book of ‘truth and action’, it will include a collection of essays from MPs such as Caroline Lucas and activists themselves, along with a practical handbook for climate change activism. Of course, printing thousands of copies of a book isn’t exactly environmentally friendly which is why the anthology will be printed in a carbon-neutral mill that plants two trees for every one that it uses.
Podcasts are an increasingly important part of the media landscape, and among those tackling climate change as a topic is BBC Radio 4’s Forest 404, set in a futuristic fictional world where plants and trees are a thing of the past. When the main character Pan stumbles across an audio recording of a rainforest, she attempts to find out more about a world that is now ancient history. Each episode is accompanied by a factual exploration of one of the themes told through the words of musicians, anthropologists and bio-futurists, as well as a soundscape from a natural environment. Featuring theme music by Bonobo, this creative podcast uses its three different elements to encourage listeners to consider a world without the nature we know today, as well as exploring the positive effects of natural environments on the human mind and body.
Traditional TV has been slow to find ways of dealing with the topic of climate change, but it seems that new platforms are leading the way in meeting a growing demand for content in this area that, to echo the BBC’s core mission statement, manages to “inform, educate and entertain.”