“Strange Days on Planet Earth” is a documentary created by National Geographic and narrated by Edward Norton. It was created to provide a general audience with a glimpse at a problem that is plaguing the global community. The documentary details the problems associated with invasive species and provides examples from Uganda to New Orleans. Each example shows a different facet of the problem that the global community faces. The documentary opens with Jim Carlton’s work in an Oakland Port. He is in the process of making one of twenty rapid assessments in the area to determine new species in the area. His introduction is brief, but he is reintroduced later.
The viewer sees Claudia Riegel’s research of the Formosan subterranean termite. An invasive species introduced to America after the September 1945 Japanese surrender. When the Americans left they made crates from local wood, but the termites were in the wood. Once in America, the termites prospered in New Orleans because its climate is hot and sticky, similarly to the termites’ native land, and Orleans is composed mostly of wood. The termites then out competed native species because they can live above and below ground unlike the natives, which are only, settle below ground. The viewer even sees the efforts being made to eliminate the species.
Next, James Ogwang’s efforts to save Uganda’s Lake Victoria are shown. Here the viewer sees how the water hyacinth brought Uganda to its knees. Although the events in this part are quite riveting, details will be saved for SW3.
Finally, the documentary shows David Duffy’s research in Hawaii. In Hawaii, Duffy and Greg Asner are working to stop the miconia from destroying the island. The plant was brought to the island as a gift from Europe, but it soon got into the wild and began to outgrow surrounding vegetation. The growth began to shade lower growth until only miconia remained in the area. Areas where this occurred now have loose soil and are therefore prone to landslides. Asner is trying to find miconia colonies by determining how they reflect the sun and using this to find them from the air.
“Strange Days” then shows the viewers that scientists are not the only people contributing to these efforts. Civilians all over the world volunteer to help. In Uganda local fisher are helping to fight the water hyacinth. In America, the Weed Warriors are helping to eliminate the ice plant in their state.
The documentary is put together quite well and provides excellent insight for those who do not know very much about this issue. National Geographic’s usage of the word invaders became a motif present throughout the documentary. Edward Norton primarily uses when he describes the invasive species like they are an invasive alien army. He uses words and phrases such as “alien powers”, “invader assault”, and “encounter with aliens.” These puns provide brief levity to a serious matter. Also, I found one statistic to be quite powerful; 99% of the species in San Francisco, by weight, are foreign. An impressive and powerful statistic that ends an informative documentary.
You refer to the invasive species, miconia, from the main island in Hawaii in this SW2. I was intrigued by David Duffy’s research and explanation of this invasive specie. And yet, I admit that I don’t completely understand Greg Asner’s attempt to control miconia. You mention that that he discovers ways to locate miconia colonies from the air using the degree to which miconia reflect the sun. Did he simply focus on physically removing the miconia in those concentrated areas? Or was there some form of biological control released from the helicopter?
The film never specified David Duffy’s exact method of removal of the miconia. It just detailed his method of combining aerial images (based off of sunlight diffraction as Shane mentioned) combined with spectral analysis of the individual miconia leaves on the ground. I think he takes all of this data together and uses it to locate areas where miconia have begun to take a foothold, but where the infestation is still at a manageable scale. I wonder if this type of approach – since it works even with the thick canopy roof that covers much of Hawaii – could be adopted to almost any plant invasive species.
Your blog does an excellent job of hitting each of the key points illustrated in this documentary. I found that your use of exact quotations taken from a few different researchers helped facilitate getting across the main messages of this film. I agree that the statistic that you utilized to conclude your blog is definitely one worth making known to the reader, however it may have had a greater effect if it had been placed more towards the beginning of your review. Overall, very descriptive and well organized review.
Excellent post, You really depicted the sense of the film well, within your title and the body of your writing. Your review is comprehensive and accurately describes the film’s angle. The movie essentially was trying to encompass the entire spectrum of the consequences of non-native invasion and you touched on all the key points referred to in the film. As stated above, I was impressed with the level of organization in your writing.