We live in a time when we are assaulted by a cacophony of demands for attention. I watch my children navigate as they effortlessly download pop songs, watch snippets on YouTube, check out friends on Facebook.
Convenience, immediacy and brevity are striking features in this brave new world.
Television is no different. Programs enhance reality by using a soundtrack to cue a specific emotion, or a sound effect to add some sparkle to a punch between stuntmen.
Of course, I’m describing fictional programs like action shows, sitcoms, and dramas that are meant to entertain. It had always been my conceit that the programs we did on The Nature Of Things would present the wonders of nature so people would fall in love with the rest of creation.
But now I realize, in many ways, we too present a virtual world that is better than the real thing.
Let me take you behind the curtain for a moment: The producer or host of a segment on, say, Arctic polar bears, doesn’t spend months filming footage. We send a cameraman to gather as many fantastic shots as possible — a bear capturing a seal, two males fighting, a family breaking out of its icy den, etc. These sequences, edited together, give the impression the Arctic is a flurry of activity. But that’s because we’ve edited out the most important aspect of this ecosystem: Time.
Nature needs time to reveal her secrets. And nature needs time to cleanse, replenish and renew herself. All regions and ecosystems are unique because of the way biological diversity, wind, soil, water, and time have worked together for centuries.
But in television we present a version of nature on steroids, a world full of adrenalin jolts per minute.
Nowadays, we expect everything to be instant and abundant. Without a sense of the important role that time plays in nature, humans expect the natural world to yield more, faster.
Maybe we all need to slow down, take time to read, think, exchange ideas and deliberate questions of who we are, where we come from, where we are heading and what life is all about. If not now, when?
Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
Dr. David T. Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver where he lives with his wife and two daughters.