New PBS Series Reflects Shift in Perception of Humanity’s Role in Nature

When CI launched our Nature Is Speaking initiative in October, we challenged people to listen to what nature has to say. So far, 2.7 million people have listened by watching our thought-provoking films — voiced by some of Hollywood’s top actors — which emphasize that we need nature more than it needs us.

M. Sanjayan and panda on log, China

While filming “EARTH A New Wild” in China, CI’s M. Sanjayan meets a local. (© Ami Vitale)

And here’s some more good news: We’re not the only ones sharing this message through the power of film, a strong indicator that the way people perceive of and talk about nature is about to change for the better.

In last year’s Showtime series “Years of Living Dangerously,” CI Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist M. Sanjayan was among the correspondents chronicling the climate change impacts being felt across the globe, from Hurricane Sandy-stricken New York City to the edge of a melting Andean glacier. The documentary’s style marked a turning point in climate change communications, focusing on how shifting weather patterns are already impacting people rather than dire warnings for the future. (If you missed it, this Emmy Award-winning series is now available on Netflix.)

This emphasis on people is driven home in “EARTH A New Wild,” a five-episode series premiering on PBS on February 4th. This show is also hosted by Sanjayan, who traveled to 29 countries (including some of the most remote regions on Earth) to meet with human communities that truly see themselves as a part of nature, not separate from it. These communities don’t act out of some higher calling to “save nature”; they do it because they know they rely on the natural world to survive and thrive.

From a Sami reindeer herder in the far north of Norway to a biologist chasing down pregnant lemon sharks in the Bahamas, all these people interact with nature in different ways, and provide viewers at home with different entry points to engage with it as well. More importantly, many of them are conservation pioneers, combining innovation, passion and — sometimes — dumb luck to achieve truly inspiring results.

At the series’ recent screening at National Geographic’s Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C., Sanjayan remarked that while in the past his experience hosting nature shows sometimes left him feeling a bit depressed about the state of the planet, “EARTH A New Wild” was different. Thanks to the dedication of the people he met, it made him feel less alone.

For U.S. viewers, don’t forget to check out “EARTH A New Wild” on PBS next Wednesday, February 4th at 9/8c. Until then, enjoy the trailer below.

Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Human Nature. Learn more about why Sanjayan decided to make “EARTH A New Wild” in his blog post

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