Friday, January 9, 2009

Strange Days on Planet Earth

Around the globe, experts are racing to solve a series of mysteries: how could a one-degree rise in average temperature have profound effects around the globe? How could crumbling houses in New Orleans be linked to voracious creatures from southern China?

Hosted by actor-writer-director Edward Norton, this award-winning series uses state-of-the-art graphics and globe-spanning investigations to understand how our environment is changing and why.

Part One - Invaders

More and more plants and animals are turning up where they don't belong. The global system of transportation is carrying them around the world. Alarmingly alien species have the potential to cause damage to the health and wellbeing of our communities and need to be kept in check.

At the end of World War II, American soldiers in the Pacific used wooden crates to ship equipment back to the United States. Little did they know that they were also transporting an aggressive breed of termite. They might be small but in large numbers they are destructive, bringing down the timber homes that dominate New Orleans.

In Uganda it took only a few years for water hyacinth, not native to the area, to rapidly spread around Lake Victoria, choking the banks. Diseases such as malaria and dysentery have been on the rise, and the prevalence of the plant has made it harder for fishermen to make a living. Can a small insect, the weevil, bring the water hyacinth under control?

In the forests of Hawaii, a plant introduced in the 1960s, has become a new source of erosion. The invasive plant with its destabilising root system has caused an increasing number of landslides. Not only devastating to species in the forests, soils being dumped in the oceans are also damaging sea-life.

Part Two - The One Degree Factor

Dust clouds are building high over the Atlantic. An entire population of caribou is declining, while other species are pushed to the limits of their physical survival in the oceans. A respiratory illness, once uncommon among children in Trinidad, is now widespread. Amazingly, many scientists now believe these disparate phenomena may be linked to global climate change.

With the constant burning of carbon fuels, scientists have concluded that the Earth's temperature has increased at least one degree. The first episode in the series explores some of the consequences of the temperature increase.

Discover how, after successfully breeding and migrating for thousands of years, the caribou populations in Alaska are now under threat, as the environment around them warms up; how the drought in Africa is responsible for both an increase in children's asthma and a disease in coral plants in the Caribbean; and why zooplankton, the most basic food source in the ocean, is continually fluctuating in population, putting entire communities of animals at risk.

Part Three - Predators

This episode shows how an entire ecosystem can change when its top predators disappear.

In Venezuela the damming of a river created a man-made lake and a number of small islands. The predators that once dominated the ecosystem have gone and the remaining wildlife, including iguana and howler monkeys, battle for survival on the small islands. Without the predators, the changes in animal behaviour and the vegetation are undeniable.

At Yellowstone National Park, Aspen trees and willow bush are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate. Could the demise of wolves in the park over the past century provide the answer? The bold move to re-introduce wolves back into the park, may have outraged some of the locals living nearby, but it only takes a couple of years to see the difference their presence makes.

Part Four - Troubled Waters

For decades, efforts have been made around the world to clean up our waterways and in some cases it appears to be working. But are our water systems really as clean as we think they are?

Across America, leopard frog species have been diminishing in large numbers. Scientists have discovered that an increasing number of male species are actually hermaphrodites. Scientists are on a quest to prove whether a herbicide used in corn farming, which is also found in the breeding grounds of the frogs, is actually responsible for the genetic anomalies.

Scientists in Canada have discovered that colonies of beluga whales have high cancer rates. The bodies washed up on shore are so toxic that they are considered hazardous waste. But where are the toxins coming from and how can scientists help save the whale colonies?

Click here for the official website.

More documentaries like this...

The Kogi - From the Heart of the World

Life After People

Global Dimming

The Human Footprint

Buy this amazing documentary on DVD...


Vlad Nistor said...

Part Four - Troubled Waters seems to be incomplete, being only 34 minutes long. It cuts of in the middle of a sentence.

Scott said...

Sorry Vlad...I cannot find a better link at the moment for episode 4.

Vlad Nistor said...

No worries, I was just giving you a heads up in case you hadn't noticed. Thanks for all the good work, this site is amazing!

thesimulacre said...

Wow... will have to come back to this one! The script seems so aggro.

I could totally see an animal documentary being screened in a rabbit hole somewhere with the exact same words directed toward us.