Between the dazzling wildlife imagery and the adrenaline-filled escapades of the animals gracing the screen, most viewers can agree that the David Attenborough–narrated Planet Earth series is nothing short of a visual spectacle. However, Martin Hughes-Games — a rival BBC nature-documentary host who has co-presented numerous programs throughout his career — isn’t fully giving in to the Planet Earth II hype. In a guest column for the Guardian, Hughes-Games argues that the series actually has an adverse effect on conserving the natural world. “I fear this series, and others like it, have become a disaster for the world’s wildlife,” he writes. “These programmes are pure entertainment, brilliantly executed but ultimately a significant contributor to the planet-wide extinction of wildlife we’re presiding over … we cannot simply carry on producing escapist wildlife fantasy almost totally ignoring the man-made mass extinction raging around us.” Hughes-Games cites a handful of studies that outline the stark decline of the world’s animal population over the past few decades, which contradict Planet Earth’s underlying hope that the audience will become inspired to conserve and preserve the world.
“Yet these programmes are still made as if this worldwide mass extinction is simply not happening,” he writes. “The producers continue to go to the rapidly shrinking parks and reserves to make their films — creating a beautiful, beguiling fantasy world, a utopia where tigers still roam free and untroubled, where the natural world exists as if man had never been. By fostering this lie they are lulling the huge worldwide audience into a false sense of security.” Hughes-Games concludes by saying that although he doesn’t think programs like Planet Earth should stop being made altogether, some realism should be injected into all of the narratives: “What I am suggesting is that the fantasy should be balanced by reality.” What say you, David Attenborough?