On Planet Earth

I finished the BBC’s Planet Earth last night and am stunned. My current, mostly puerile, reactions to the series include:

1. I want an Amur Leopard.

2. We human beings have it so easy. So easy. Just look at what other animals have to put up with. I mean, I just would not want to be a vole.

3. I want an Amur Leopard and a Lynx.

4. Tigers are some of the most humane killers. In the Seasonal Forests episode, a tiger springs out of the grass and grabs a baboon. By the neck. The baboon goes immediately limp. Contrast that with the hundred or so maulings, disembowelings, and eatingalivings we’ve seen in previous episodes and you can’t help but think, “Nice kitty!” (The lions eating the elephant alive in a earlier episode, though, kind of balance the scorecard for the panthera genus. Bad kitties!) When watching the baboon’s last gasp, I thought about Ted Hughes’ poem Tiger Psalm:

The tiger
Kills frugally, after close inspection of the map.
The machine-guns shake their heads,
They go on chattering statistics.

5. I want an Amur Lepoard and Lynx and a Red Panda. Hopefully they’ll all get along.

6. Would I sacrifice a few people for some charismatic megafauna? The discomforting answer is, “In a heartbeat.” I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but if I was holding a switch that could, say, save 100 Amur Leopards at the cost of 100 random people, I’d throw it in favor of the leopards. I can’t see that there’s a right answer one way or the other, really. But there are only a few Amur Leopards and a lot of people.

7. OK, if I can’t have the Amur Leopard and the Lynx and the Red Panda, I at least want an owl of some sort. And maybe a couple bats.

8. In the Deep Seas episode, I was stunned by the intelligence of so many of these animals. For instance, the octopus. Wow.

9. Another uncomfortable conclusion: if a few species get wiped out, is that such a bad thing? I mean, the earth is teaming with life. It’s everywhere, from lightless caves to volcanic fissures in the ocean floor. Again, I feel conflicted, like when I watched that gay porno movie and… Nevermind.

10. “There is one story and one story only,” wrote Robert Graves, and when it comes to animals, Planet Earth demonstrates again and again how true that is. Eat, reproduce, and try not to get eaten in the process. Such is life. It ain’t pretty, but it’s beautiful.

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