We are all very busy these days, too busy to pay attention to anything for than a fleeting moment. Due to this, I am convinced that our attention spans are evolving to no longer pay attention, which in turn makes learning about wildlife very difficult. “See that butterfly?” “Yes – very nice!” “Hey, look at that funny billboard – wait, someone is texting me a video of a man in a bunny costume eating a piece of grass.” Welcome to the world of 2012.
When I was growing up in the 60′s and 70′s with the 3 tv channels and walking to school uphill in both directions in the snow, and we drank water from the tap – I survived. But on those 3 channels once in a while would be a worthwhile show about wildlife: Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins where he would make Jim Fowler tackle animals he really did not want to while Marlin talked about them. Jacque Cousteau Ocean documentaries and the occasional show about Jane Goodall. Late night talk shows would feature Jack Hanna or Joan Emery from San Diego and we learned bits and pieces and every once in a while or ended up in a library where books were free to borrow.
40 years removed from the old days, I am convinced that we as a society of learning individuals are broken – and I am blaming cable TV for this. Only a few short years ago, you could happily flip on Animal Planet or Discovery Channel and either discover something or learn about wildlife but these networks have completely lost their minds. A one week review of what they are showing seems to prove my point. With all due respect to the individuals who they are highlighting and are now making a better living at what they do – this is entertainment – not education – and much if it detrimentally affects live animals. Maybe Animal Planet and Discovery Channel find it easier to sell these shows – remember our attention spans have made it such that we really want non-stop action no matter what the subject.
The first show I watched and they replayed a dozen times over the week - Call of the Wildman where Turtle man attempted to evict a raccoon from an old trading post. He did by the way. This was followed by Gator Boys, Swamp Brothers and Hillbilly Handfishin (yes I spelled that correctly). Mostly it is people running around grabbing animals.
Over on Discovery Channel, I discovered a Documentary (documentary means nonfictional and intending to represent some aspect of reality and yes, I looked the word up to make sure) called Mermaids: The Body Found that examined the speculation that the mythical sea creatures may be real and claim authorities are keeping it a secret. Shame on you Discovery Channel. Back to our friends at Animal Planet where Rattlesnake Republic notes: “In the heart of Texas is a little known world where men hunt and capture the continent’s most dangerous predator. The Rattlesnake Republic follows the lives and adventures of four teams of brave rattlesnake wranglers as they battle to make a living.” They basically make a living killing rattlesnakes. It is rated TV-Y, which means it is appropriate for children.
On the bright side, there is still National Geographic Wild who have been showing The Last Lions, Eye of the Leopard and a few other non-mermaid related documentaries. Tuesday they aired the first episode of Freeks and Creeps. Not enamored with the title, but it focuses on some of the lesser known animals around the world from Tasmanian Devils to Proboscis Monkeys and is really worth watching.
For now – get your kids away from the tv – it is dragging us back to the stone age – and get them outside and force them to look at a butterfly or maybe a squirrel or two. Want to really confuse them? Take them to a library.
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