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What can we learn from Blue Planet II?


Discover the behaviours of our wonderful oceans’ inhabitants and the lessons we can learn from them.

David Attenborough’s television credits span seven decades, the majority of which have provided a worldly scope on nature and its relationship with animal life. Yet it is his most recent offering, Blue Planet II – the successor to The Blue Planet – where the audience is given an insight into marine life and its relationship with our wonderful oceans. It is some of these relationships here which have touched my viewing experience; some are examples of what it means to love and connect personally.

In episode one, we see an emotional sequence in Svalbard with a colony of walrus. Patrolling polar bears and melting ice caps, the colony struggles to salvage a place for mothers to rest their children. At the centre of this sequence, a mother and her calf, the latter held so tenderly, look for safety. While the audience is reminded of the harrowing effects of global warming, particularly localised in the Arctic, it is the mother’s care and fight for her baby that captures the essence of the scene; we see her fighting off other adult members of her colony to protect her calf. The mother’s determination and fight is a true reflection of parental love.

Although sometimes we see the dangerous side of sea life, like the predatory, deep-sea activity of the sixgill sharks, there is a very unifying, co-operative side to marine life. On the one hand, there are the mutually beneficial relationships. For example, a group of sea turtles make a trip to ‘Turtle Rock’ where they are cleaned of parasites by blenny and surgeonfish. This example of symbiosis emphasises the idea of co-operation and partnership, but when Attenborough tells us that the coral reef home of these turtles is in peril due to warming seas, we are again drawn back to the concern of increased global warming. On the other hand, the audience witnesses the amazing co-operation of two completely different species – the grouper fish and the reef octopus in episode three. Despite there not being a mutual dependency on each other, the grouper fish changes colour to attract the octopus and performs a headstand to signal where fish are hiding, the octopus crawls into the desired area thereafter and captures its prey, but at the time saves a few, flushing them out for the grouper to catch.

Far more emotional and profound, the strong bond and sadness felt by a short-finned pilot whale towards its dead calf in episode four adds to both the sentimental and intellectual value of these sea animals. Beyond these emotions, there is an even deeper revelation to the audience; the suspected death of the calf due to raised chemical toxins in our seas is a testament to the reckless dropping of plastic in our seas. In line with this lesson is a particularly ‘stand-out’ scene where we see a clownfish looking for a suitable home to lay her eggs when she comes across a plastic bottle on the seafloor.

If we emulate some of these behaviours and act on the current ways in which sea-life is being endangered, our relationship with sea-life would arguably be much safer and more harmonious. It certainly doesn’t take long to visit resources like Less Plastic, which gives inspiration, strategies and products to tackle ocean plastic, or Practically Plastic Free, a site dedicated to giving practical solutions for reduced plastic living.

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