Being a bit Arctic-obsessed, I was ridiculously excited when I heard that the BBC/Discovery co-production team that created the epic Planet Earth series was putting out a seven-episode exploration of the polar regions.
Frozen Planet will, in the BBC's words, "takes you on the ultimate polar expedition. This landmark series brings to the screen the frozen wildernesses of the Arctic and Antarctic as you have never seen them before, and may never see them again."
If your heart isn't already racing, just get a load of this trailer:
Well, yes, if you're a Brit. The U.K. audience, and most of the 30 countries in which Frozen Planet will air, will get to see all seven breathtaking episodes, narrated by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough. But here in the U.S., the Discovery Channel is leaving out the crucial final episode, the one that deals with climate change and the very precarious fate of polar regions. (An odd decision for the company that owns TreeHugger and Planet Green.)
Sir David authors On Thin Ice, the seventh film of the series, which explores the effects of climate change on the polar regions and the lengths that scientists are going to, to understand it. Some regions, like the Antarctic Peninsula, have warmed significantly in the years since Sir David first visited them. He explores what this means, not just for the animals and people of the polar regions, but for the whole planet.
A Discovery spokesperson told London's Daily Mail that the network won't be running the seventh and final episode for "scheduling reasons." (God forbid they bump a week of "Auction Kings.") I have reached out to Discovery for further explanation and have not yet heard back.
But damn if this doesn't feel like ideological pandering, as a network chooses to avoid controversy in a polarizing election season. (Fewer than half of Republican voters believe that there is "solid evidence that the world is getting warmer.") So it appears to me that Discovery is opting to cater to a small sliver of knee-jerk deniers, rather than to serve its audience and educate the public on this incredibly urgent issue.
You simply cannot tell the real story of the polar regions without discussing climate change and the drastic impacts on the region. (See "Arctic Fever," Spring 2011.) More than anyplace else on the planet, the Arctic and Antarctica are responding to the increased solar energy that greenhouse gases are trapping. The warming is having intense, measurable, and visible impacts at the poles, and the degree of change in the last ten years alone has been beyond the wildest fears of climate scientists. How Frozen Planet could ever be considered complete without thorough examination -- let alone mention -- of this, I cannot understand.
The series is airing now in the U.K., and is scheduled to run on Discovery in the United States in early 2012. Let's hope by then that the network has heard from enough viewers (suggested tweet: Hey @discovery, why aren't you showing the #climate change finale of @FrozenPlanetWW) that they'll change their minds and will air the crucial finale.
Here are a couple other ways to contact Discovery:
Ben writes about climate, energy, and sustainability for numerous publications and is the former environment editor at GOOD. He's the author of "The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City" and currently lives in Vermont. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has...Ben writes about climate, energy, and sustainability for numerous publications and is the former environment editor at GOOD. He's the author of "The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City" and currently lives in Vermont. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.MoreClose