Filmmaker and series producer of Age of Nature, Verity White, talks about a fresh look at our relationship with nature, our impact on it, how it works and how we can begin to restore the balance of life on earth. By Team Viva
The world is changing. And clearly, at this crucial turning point of our planet, three most important things are: Awakening, understanding and changing. Giving us a deeper understanding of nature and our place within it, Sony BCC Earth brings the Age of Nature. The show is a fresh look at our relationship with nature and how we are beginning to restore the balance of life on earth. Excerpts:
What does the show Age of Nature try to convey to the audience?
Well, we wanted people to understand a few fundamental things about nature. One is that we’re utterly dependent on it, whether you live in the countryside of your farm or in a city, and you drink water, breathe air, we’re all as a human species utterly dependent on it. And that nature is in a bit of trouble at the moment. I think that’s not new for anybody. But we’re almost at a tipping point where if we don’t start to pay more attention and look after nature better, we’re going to find ourselves living on a very uncomfortable planet. The most important thing is it’s not that difficult to help nature heal itself. The power of it is extraordinary. All we need to do is give it a little bit of space, make sure it has what it needs and nature will heal itself quickly.
What are some of the ways we can restore our planet?
I think giving space to nature is the most important thing we can do. It will balance itself and take care of itself. Nature changes all the time and that’s fine. But we just need to sort of leave it to get on with it. So if you give it an empty field, it will very quickly reseed that field with plants and then the pollinators will come and the birds will come in and very quickly that empty field will be full of life again. So I think just to give it some space, take away our chemicals, our intensive farming practices, unsustainable building practices, and let nature do what it wants to do.
How are the concepts of awakening, understanding and changing explained in the show?
For us as filmmakers, we needed to go back in time to explain how we’ve got to the point where we are today. And it hasn’t taken very long in the great history of the world where humans have only been distressing nature for relatively a couple of 100 years in an intensive way. So you can see the journey of what’s happened there, what we’ve been doing and the effect. But also what we can see is that we do already treat nature in some ways, much better than we did 50 years ago. And that’s because our understanding of nature is so much better now. And that’s what you can see in Episode Two: The science that we can do now is incredible. We understand how ocean currents work, how the atmosphere protects our planet, how biodiversity is, so it’s sort of complicated and interconnected. We didn’t know these things 50 years ago, but we know them now. That means that we can know better how to look after them. Going forward into the future with climate change, this is obviously the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. But nature can be a huge part of helping us cope with that because nature sequesters carbon. It’s the cheapest, easiest, most obvious way to help us reduce some of the carbon in the atmosphere, which is something we need to do urgently.
Can you explain the importance of balance of nature, and how humans impact it?
Balance of nature is quite an interesting term. I think nature is far from balance. It is wild, dynamic, moving and changing all the time. It’s natural to have fires and floods. It adapts quickly to all the changes that happen across the planet. And if you’re looking over a larger timescale and a larger space, then it all balances out. But we’re not expecting nature to be still and to be calm. What nature needs to have is the ability to make these changes because that’s what it’s always done. And that’s what it needs more space for. So I think, to get us to get the balance with nature right we just need to give nature more space.
What are some of the incredible things you learned about nature during the making of the show?
Well, I learned the term. For me, the biggest revelation was the term ‘nature’s ability to store carbon forests’. It stores that carbon with the strength of its biodiversity. So it’s not just planting trees, which as you know, a useful technical pump to pump the carbon down. But the storage needs to happen in the soil, it needs to happen under the water in the oceans. That can only happen if ecosystems are healthy and biodiversity — rich and strong. When we destroy nature, when we trawl the ocean floor without huge fishing trawlers, when we burn forests, when we plough, we admit as much carbon as burning fossil fuels. That was something that I didn’t know earlier. The other, probably the most interesting shoot I did was going to film the ranches live with wolves around the Yellowstone National Park over in North America, and how they’ve learned to cope living with wolves, how they’re learning to accept predators back into the ecosystem and how we could learn from their journey and apply it to other places in the world where wolves are being tolerated, once again, across Europe, for example.
What really drove you to this profession — wildlife filmmaking?
Well, I’ve been into nature since I was a child. I’ve always spent a lot of time observing, collecting bugs, bringing them home, much to my mother’s horror. It must be genetic because it’s been with me for a very long time. Also, I really enjoy storytelling — the technical aspect of filmmaking doesn’t interest me so much, it’s simply telling of stories. So to bring those two passions together, I entered into the world of wildlife filmmaking. And I feel, one cannot make wildlife or nature-inspired films without realising that there’s a bigger story to tell, and that our nature is in a bit of trouble. We simply need to pay more attention to it, especially now.
Any message you have for the Indian audience?
Yes, I think there’s a lot of hope out there, and the narrative of climate change is frightening. It’s depressing. But there’s hope in nature and everybody can play their part, be it a small window box in a city or a back garden in a rural area or when you’re farming. Nature will be grateful for everything, even if you do your minutest bit. It will surely repay you one day by making a healthy planet for us to live on.
(The show premieres on April 12 at 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth.)