Well, I got a few emails yesterday about the footage of ‘Polar Bear Family & Me’ and Polar Bear International’s response to it – specifically the blog post by Polar Bear researchers Steven Amstrup, Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher. I read the blog response and then, naturally, searched youtube for a pirated version of the BBC2 documentary and watched that.
Let’s start with the most important part… their ‘fixer’ or location guide: Jason Roberts. From what I could see, he did everything fine or at least, I couldn’t see anything that I or any other guide in Churchill wouldn’t do.
He explains things fairly clearly and a lot of these shots are distance shots so I did not see a lot of alteration of bear behaviour. The only significant alteration of polar bear behaviour were the mother and cubs running and hiding from the helicopter (ahem, cough, cough).
Of course, there might have been some baiting here and odds are there was some seal oil on the ‘ice cube’ – it is eerily reminiscent of the original ‘Polar Bear Alert’ documentary from 1982. Maybe some old dirty tricks were used but nothing too bad… of course, I wasn’t there so who knows.
As for the bear ‘attacking’ the ice cube mobile… yes, her tooth could break or whatever but the chances of anything bad happening were pretty slim. I mean a bear’s tooth could break on a tundra vehicle or pickup truck, what’s your point? A radio collar does not affect a bear’s life…?
I would, however, venture that Buchanan’s claim of 40 minutes of ‘attack’ may be slightly exaggerated… I know its hard to believe that a TV personality might exaggerate a claim but it happens.
Other than that, it is a pretty straight-forward polar bears versus climate change docu-drama, not the best but not the worst I’ve seen by a long shot. At least their information is fairly accurate and they accurately track a polar bear through a good chunk of its annual pattern.
I mean, if you want real falsehoods and misrepresentation, refer to Adam Ravetch’s ‘Polar Bear: A Summer Odyssey’ which, for some reason, no one has said a peep about. David Suzuki even featured it on the Nature of Things… bizarre. Some nice footage though.
Anyway, back to Polar Bear Family & Me… the PBI scientists get pretty outlandish in their statements – for a while, I thought I was reading one of my own mid-bear season exhaustion blogs, ha… Here are a few excerpts:
‘Almost unbelievably, the program begins by stating erroneously that causes of the ongoing warming of the world are uncertain.’
Essentially, the whole documentary is about the plight of polar bears in a warming world. Amstrup et al takes offence to an off-hand comment within three hours of ‘oh my god, the ice is disappearing and the bears are starving!!!’
‘little more than reality TV that actually focuses much more on the “me” (i.e., the photographer) than it does on the bears.’
So Gord Buchanan can’t talk about himself but Martha Stewart is ‘raising awareness’? Or how is this different from the stories that focus on polar bear researchers ‘risking their lives’ to count bears? PR is a part of life guys.
‘rich tradition of BBC wildlife documentaries’
You do understand that a good chunk of this rich history was filmed at Brian Ladoons…
‘the last thing we all need is such a distorted view of the lives of polar bears, and the last thing the bears need is this sort of distraction from their normal life-sustaining activities.’
I could mention the Coca-Cola bears watching football but won’t… Anyway, the main problem I saw was that the film crew kept encountering healthy looking (even fat) bears and repeating over and over that they were starving… but I’m not sure that’s what you were getting at.
‘Consequently, we applaud all serious and informed efforts by media.’
I am assuming that they are referring to Polar Bear Alley here and I deeply thank them for the plug. I try my best.
‘Reality TV hits new low’
I don’t think Amstrup, Stirling and Derocher watch much TV, I mean we’re not exactly talking HoneyBooBoo here. In fact, they might even owe BBC2 an apology…
The reality is that this film crew likely paid for the radio collars and helicopter time. The researcher involved in this probably collected more information and kept more of his annual budget for other stuff, thanks to Gord Buchanan and BBC2. In my opinion, more harm is caused to the bears by the collars than a film crew showing up three or four times a year. I could be wrong.
The only thing that I really object to is the practice of filming female bears with cubs who are drugged and have no means of defending her cubs. Anyone who believes that this does not stress the mother (whose eyes are open but she is immobile) and the cubs (who are surrounded by people and likely picked up and passed around) seems a bit out of touch. But, everyone wants a profile pic of themselves holding a cub so what the hey…
Anyway, it appears that Gord Buchanan’s and BBC’s ‘Polar Bear Attacks Film-maker’ PR video is the problem here and regardless of what you think, it seems to have worked really, really well. Of course, I will attach the video to this blog post as a not-so-subtle attempt to derive website visits from his work.
While I am at it, thanks to BBC2 ‘Polar Bear Family and Me’ and Gord Buchanan controversial polar bear video ‘Polar Bear Attacks Film Maker’ and any other searchable words! I wonder what Willie Stroker thinks about all this…