EARTH A New Wild is an upcoming series that will air on PBS and document a five-year, global journey, capturing encounters between wild animals and the people who live and work among them. The five episodes focus on different habitats and aspects of human-wildlife interactions: Home, Plains, Forests, Ocean and Water. The series examines the critical role people can play in restoring the natural world and how people and wildlife—even top predators—can thrive alongside each other and be mutually beneficial.
AWI spoke with Dr. M. Sanjayan, leading conservation scientist with Conservation International and host of the series, to get a first-hand perspective on what EARTH A New Wild will offer viewers.
AWI: What inspired the series?
Dr. Sanjayan: It started with a personal quest to answer the question, “Is there a way for 7 billon of us to live on a planet with wild nature, with the things that I love and grew up with and want to be around?”
I’ve given all my life to conservation and sometimes find myself depressed and worried about where things are headed. I do worry about these places that I care deeply about. I know the way that we approach conservation today is probably not going to be sufficient. The quest asks, “Is there another way out of it? Is there a different way we can see and value nature?”
For us, a lot of the reason why we care about something is because of love. Whether it’s our dogs, cats, horses, or whether it’s wild animals, you get to the point where love is not enough. This notion that we can convince enough people to set aside land for nature or convince enough people to create a new national park, especially in poorer countries, is a very difficult proposition. It is not happening fast enough to deal with the erosion of nature. I’m not suggesting that love isn’t important. I’m just suggesting that it cannot be the only path.
What message do you hope to convey to the audience through the series?
I want viewers to take away one key message: we, as humans, are part of nature. When you realize that we are part of nature, what you quickly realize is that saving nature is really about saving ourselves. Even in today’s world, with all our modernization and technology, we are still very dependent on nature. When nature stumbles, we stumble as well.
What do you think is the most important thing we, as humans, can do to lessen our negative impact on animals and habitats?
This is probably the most important time in our lives, as humans on this planet. The next 20 years will probably chart the next 5,000 years. I want the audience to become engaged politically and become involved with conservation organizations. I’d also love to see parents and schools focus a lot more on kids in terms of how they think about the next generation and understand the value of nature early on. I think this is going to play a big role.
How we grow, eat, and prepare our food is probably the biggest impact that we have on land, wild animals, domestic animals, and energy budgets of our planet. We do not pay enough attention to agriculture—how we grow and eat our food. We can make big gains in that spectrum.
We humans need to be a lot more aware of where our water comes from, where our food comes from, where we get our energy. We do these little things in life all the time that we just take for granted. I think that if we were a little more thoughtful and consider what nature provides for us for free, we would be willing to pay for nature a bit more.
Produced by National Geographic Television in association with Passion Planet, EARTH A New Wild premieres February 4, 2015, on PBS. For more information, visit www.pbs.org/earth-a-new-wild/home/.