Shock & Awe: Natural History in the Age of Climate Change

Craft Is the role of natural history to fill audiences with a sense of awe, or to shock people to act now about climate change?

Attenborough is now a global hero, his popularity not dimmed but growing evermore as his environmental messaging gets stronger with each series. He is a product of the super beast: BBC’s Natural History Unit, with an output of 100 TV hours and 50 radio hours.

By comparison, Magical Land of Oz was the first three-part blue chip series commissioned by the ABC for almost 20 years. And, importantly distinct from natural history, environmental films have only been created with the help of philanthropists and NGOs. The exception is the hugely popular ABC series War on Waste, which proved that environmental messaging doesn’t have to turn audiences off.

Cinematographer John Brown (who recently shot two episodes of Attenborough’s Dynasties series) talks to Director Tosca Looby (Magical Land of Oz) and Stephen Oliver (Wonders of the East Australian Current) about whether the role of natural history practitioners is to provide audiences with a sense of wonder and escapism, or if it should be to motivate people to take action about climate change?

In this session we ask whether Australia can now grow up to champion a new genre – natural history film-making which is, necessarily, environmental at its heart and presented by our own nurtured pool of hosts? Or are we only ever going to be a bit player, buying formats, following trends and borrowing hosts from beyond our shores?