Human nature under the microscope: Human Planet

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Not doing anything Thursday night? Is 8pm a free slot in your day? Or do you have an hour to kill? Why not try BBC One, where John Hurt will narrate you through the human wilderness.

I hear you ask: human wilderness? No, it’s not a typo. Human Planet turns nature documentaries on their head. Instead of following our four-legged friends in extreme environments, the BBC is following people. These indigenous tribes, from across the globe, are surviving in the some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

Yet, Human Planet is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Cataloguing remote human civilisations in 8 visually breath-taking episodes, the BBC draw parallels between these nature loving peoples and us. So far, we have already been escorted into the Ocean, Desert, Arctic and Jungle peoples.

The first episode, ‘Oceans – Into the Blue’ features people living on the very edge of the seas. Each peoples pushing the boundaries of the human-condition to extremes. One man, so in tune with the ocean can dive, on a single breath, to astonishing depths for amazing lengths of time. Beautiful images of oceans and coral fish fill the screen. Tropical blues tantalise the eyes.

In the Desert men, women and children spend their lives searching for vital water sources. Whether travelling across the Sahara or digging wells with complex tunnels, they are constantly risking their lives to survive.

Facing Arctic snows melting earlier and earlier, Inuit hunters face treacherous conditions. As they travel out for the hunt, they edge around the pack ice, begging it not to melt. Because without the pack ice, they cannot hunt for the precious meats they need to survive the winter cold.

In the Jungles, tribes scrap whatever nutrition they can find. Be it monkey or goliath tarantulas. Even honey, 40 metres high, is sought after. Watching a single man climb to such heights takes your breath away.

But the series does not just follow the indigenous peoples. More western civilisations are also documented, Churchill, Canada for example as polar bears visit the locals. Other western influences are also shown. In Oceans and Jungles especially, where western man is destroying the habitat beyond salvation. John Hurt’s eloquent voice cuts deep as the destruction is shown. Images of whole rainforests flattened arguably hitting the hardest.

During all this, the harshness of the environments and the hardships these people take on, we are shown a little light. Insights into their cultures are given. Celebrations and rituals shared. Happiness, excitement and overwhelming joy expressed for those taking part.

But a warning; hunting is shown in relative detail. Caught during the night, a Greenland shark ultimately drowns before it is hauled up for cutting. Whales, due to their size, are repeatedly speared or harpooned. Monkeys are shot for precious protein in the Jungles. Yet, if you are able to look past this, these peoples’ connection to the planet is astounding. They have no other way of surviving. Their ancestors have survived in the same manner for centuries. These people know no other way and often, there is no other way. But for what they take, they must return. Kindness is shown, and respect; showing us up for our western cruelties.

Yet to be aired are Mountains, Grasslands, Rivers and ultimately Cities. Half way through the series, it is still available on iPlayer. In fact, it’s within your reach until the 10th of March when all 8 episodes expire. Up to then, it’s all yours. A relaxing, interesting and inspiring way to fill an hour, I highly recommend giving Human Planet a watch.

For more info on the series, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00rrd83 with links to all episodes on iPlayer provided.

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