Dear Wildlife Filmmakers, It's Time to Focus on the Climate Crisis

Speaking to The Quint, filmmaker Ashwika Kapur spells out why the nature of nature documentaries needs to change.

Climate Change
3 min read

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"Historically, natural history programmes have avoided difficult issues like climate change, biodiversity collapse and conservation, because these are subjects that have been considered too doom-and-gloom for audiences. But that is what really needs to change."
Ashwika Kapur, wildlife filmmaker and Green Oscar winner

On 6 November, Indian wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Ashwika Kapur spoke at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference.

She demanded that the wildlife industry and nature documentary producers take greater responsibility in raising awareness about the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Wildlife filmmaker Ashwika Kapur is demanding that nature documentary producers take greater responsibility in raising awareness about the climate crisis.

(Photo courtesy: Ashwika Kapur)

Speaking to The Quint, Ashwika spells out why the nature of nature documentaries needs to change, and how what happened at the recently concluded COP26 summit could help catalyse that change.


What’s Lacking in the Wildlife Shows We Love

A regular day at work for wildlife filmmaker Ashwika Kapur.

(Photo courtesy: Ashwika Kapur)

Ashwika: We all love watching wildlife and nature documentaries. No matter where you’re from, or how old or young you are, wildlife films speak to us all, by taking us into places where we’d never otherwise be able to go, and showing us the intimate lives of animals like we’d never otherwise be able to see.

But what about the rest of the story? How often have mainstream nature documentaries actually addressed the very difficult subjects of climate change and biodiversity collapse?

There have been documentaries about these subjects, but those documentaries are a very small fraction of what is out there.


A Lesson From the Sundarbans

Bengal tigers could vanish from the Sundarbans as climate change and rising sea levels threaten their habitats.

(Photo: IndiaSpend)

Ashwika: While working for RoundGlass Sustain in the Sundarbans, I witnessed firsthand how enormously threatened and under danger this very, very important ecosystem was.

The Sundarbans is facing one of the worst climate crises in the world, and yet that is a part of the narrative which is very often eliminated from mainstream television.

And it’s all very well to want to watch an amazingly and stunningly shot sequence of a big cat on the hunt. We love watching animal behaviour like that, shot beautifully in high resolution and slow motion.

But that’s only one part of the story. How often are you actually told how threatened these big cats are, how much of their homes and habitats have already been lost? How often are we told that many big cats are on their way to extinction in as little as two or three decades if the current trends carry on the way they are?

Those are the parts of the narrative that are missing.


What Can Be Done About It, and the COP26 Impact

What changed for nature documentaries at COP26?

(Photo courtesy: COP26)

Ashwika: So here’s the good news - change has already begun. At COP26 this year, a small number of very important broadcasters have already signed a pledge committing themselves to creating programmes which are environmentally more conscious.

They have promised to bring the audience, people like yourself, more programmes directly addressing matters of climate change and biodiversity crisis, so that all of us can be better informed for a better future.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Climate Change   Environment   Conservation 

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