Human Planet

Recently I’ve not had much spare time, but what little I’ve had has been mainly spent watching the BBC’s new series “Human Planet”. I don’t think you can watch BBC iplayer from anywhere around the world, so for everyone who is reading this internationally I apologise for giving you such a tantalising post. Maybe you can get it on DVD at some point in the future, who knows, it would definitely be worth it. The series looks in turn at some of the most extreme and inaccessible parts of the world, and how groups of people have adapted incredibly to live in them, and from what I have seen so far (I’ve only watched 2 episodes in full) it is mind-blowing. The only slightly frustrating thing is that each small segment of each episode could easily be expanded to fill a whole hour, if not more, but it seems that the BBC is adopting a more and more “bite-size” approach to their documentaries.

I’ve come across some of the societies/tribes which they are filming with before, but there is plenty that is completely new to me, and along with the stunning BBC photography it is all completely mesmerising. I feel like I’m getting a bit carried away using words like stunning and mesmerising- basically, you should watch it if you can. Interestingly it also has a lot say about architecture, since it says so much about humanity, which are and should be intrinsically linked.

I heard an interesting comment in response to the clip below, which is from the Arctic episode, that although it is highly subjective, “it feels like this [space under the ice] is one of the things architecture has wanted to be for the last 50 years.. organic, temporal, chaotic, ephemeral, heart-pounding.” I’m not entirely sure I agree that architecture has strived to be temporal and ephemeral, not until very recent times at least, but there is certainly something true here- there is a mystery and excitement to such a secret place.

There are a few video clips on youtube which are worth watching if you can’t see the full episodes. This first clip below follows a Korowai family in Papua as they move into their new home which they had just completed- a treehouse over 30m above the forest floor. I remember first seeing pictures of these tree-houses when I was young, and my mind still boggles just as much as it did then, it certainly puts my efforts of a few planks lodged between branches into perspective. What is great about these tree houses is that in a way they are quite unnecessary. Most tribes find it completely acceptable to build and survive on the forest floor, and although there are definitely aspects of protection from predators and attacks, it seems like the main reason they are so high up is because it is awesome. They are living in the forest canopy simply because it is beautiful and fun, and that is amazing.

This last clip includes the first footage taken of an un-contacted tribe in the amazon. I’ve since read up about this and there was a lot of debate and slander over the videos being hoaxed, which was mainly down to people’s poor understanding of the term “un-contacted”- since of course these tribes know that they have other tribes as neighbours and will trade with them to a limited extent. Look out for the views of their houses- it’s amazing seeing truly vernacular living, and living that must be largely  independent from other societies. Our lives are so complexly dependant on a worldwide network of people that it’s virtually impossible for us to live, or even imagine living, in a way which doesn’t at some point down the line exploit someone, and here is a group of people who are managing just fine. Not that I’d suggest donning a loin cloth and taking to the trees, but it’s a thought…

-David

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