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Chilling fate awaits playful polar bears; Nature's Great Events, BBC1, Wed.

Byline: Paul English

IT was an awkward partnership on ice. While one showed grace and poise, the other had as much elegance and dexterity as a baby elephant.

Which must be considered a damning review, even for a baby polar bear.

Ruthie Henshall, Robin Cousins and the rest of the (frost) bitten-faced judges on Dancing On Ice wouldn't have been too impressed.

That said, baby bear stumbling clumsily around his mother's rump as she astutely slithered her way across thin ice on her belly was still a better performance than anything a bespangled Todd Carty managed.

There were no ice skates or sequins in the Arctic, but the first episode of Nature's Great Events did feel a little like doing endless circuits of an ice rink.

Polar bears lumbering across ice floes. Guillemots teetering on the cliffs. Arctic fox snatching chicks in the foothills. Haven't we been here before?

Wasn't it quite recently? In fact, haven't we watched this at least once a year for the past three?

The plight of cute baby ursus maritimus and their big white paws has become a dependably "awww" staple in annual BBC nature shows voiced by Sir David of the Attenboroughs each winter.

Still, the footage of the fantasy-like arctic unicorn (a whale with a javelin sticking out of its head) was a marvellous TV first, nicely augmented by a "ta-da" soundtrack giving their appearance a Spielberg feel.

Elsewhere, the tense "polar bear vbreaking ice" struggle elicited unexpected cheers as old furry face overcame global warming on apersonal level to make solid ground. Meanwhile, colonies of worried seals switched over to C4's Relocation, Relocation ...

Last night's environmental message was left cooling for the first 30 minutes, before Father Nature himself introduced the sombre news that two-thirds of polar bears could vanish by 2050 because the ice is shrinking up there.

Such statistics should shock us all into apoplexy, because that's bad news for everyone and not just the confectioners who'll need a new icon for Glacier Mints.

Instead, such menace is buried in the middle of a nature show about "the greatest seasonal event on the planet". For the benefit of TV news producers, that's the ice caps' annual thaw and not snow in London.

If only half the hysteria devoted to the 24/7 news reports about last week's "severe weather" went into covering such chilling stats about the bigger picture, then maybe the polar bears would be looking at a future that included more than just the odd cameo on Sky One's Lost.

Of course, the environmental argument might also be inflated by the methane released by the colonies of farting walruses.

The clatty beasts sat around idly drooling and casually pumping after dinner in a scene resembling the front room of the care home for marine mammals.

It was a much-needed reminder amid all this cutesy that not only does Mother Nature have a tendency to be cruel - she smells pretty bad too.

'The news that two-thirds of polar bears could vanish by 2050 is bad for all of us, not just Glacier Mints who'll need a new icon'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 12, 2009
Words:519
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