Tuesday, 8 March 2011

TV Top Picks - How to boost your grade through selective TV watching

Ok, well its a bit of an exaggeration, but this year is proving to be just fantastic for geography TV. Whilst there are some new classics (those of you in my classes have probably seen most of the Iain Stewart TV series relevant to our courses but there are loads more), here is my list, in preferential order, of the best TV you can access online or through the library that will broaden your geographical horizons:

1) How Earth Made Us

A fantastically geography orientated five part series, unfortunately not available online at the moment, but requested for the library. The five parts are Deep Earth, Water, Wind, Fire and People, and the aim of the series is to show how closely interlinked the location of our cities, our development or new ideas and technologies and our future is with the planet. Why do we live on fault zones? What attracted us there in the first place? Why are some of our largest civilisations at the feet of volcanoes, on tsunami prone coastlines and earthquake zones? How did a Southern Pacific shift in the winds lead to the elimination of a whole society - the Anasazi?

All this and more are answered, suitable for AS and A2 students, this documentary is a near perfect fit for our courses, the case studies are all relevant, and the breadth of knowledge contained within each show is an excellent example of how geography is not split into the physical and human, the two are inseparable, and interlinked, and the success or destruction of one, has a significant, and possibly devastating effect on the other.

Here's a taster from the episode on water (with a sneak preview of one of the many waterfalls we visit in Iceland!):

2) Human Planet

A little more of a tenuous link, but a series which has had me gripped from the start, not only for its astounding photography, the scenery is epic throughout (with the possible exception of cities), an the stories illustrated show how wide the range of adaptations we have made to our environments truly is. Narrated by John Hurts (Shooting Dogs) dulcet tones, the series covers everything from farming in the Rift valley and fighting off monkeys, to hunting arctic foxes with Golden Eagles, and using wild pigeon droppings in Fez to soften leather.

I think the funniest clip is the one below, from the final episode, this is the Elf in Estes in Colorado chasing some tourists who think they are tame!!

In a more geographical note, this series would work well for you particularly if you are doing either Environmental Studies or Biology, as it illustrates our symbiosis with nature, and how we have met the challenges of earths most extreme environments by adapting and finding solutions often based in nature. The episode on oceans was amazing, grasslands was fascinating, the Mountains was so fantastically bizarre I had to google it afterwards! Possibly a series of arguments to support the population optimists, whatever happens we will survive??

The series is available to view online through iplayer through this link, to me, some of the most interesting bits were the ten minutes at the end where they talk to the camera men about filming in these locations and far flung corners of the earht.

Human Planet - available until the 10th March or its arrival in the Library!

3) Slumming it - Kevin McCloud

This was on a couple of years ago, but as this is a geography blog I thought we'd have at least one purely human documentary in here! Most relevant to the population module, this was a shocking, touching, sometimes disturbing documentary about life in Mumbai's biggest Slum, Dharavi

Watch Slumming it - 4OD not available through the college system

Dharavi is massive, 600 000 people, squashed into 1.7 square kilometers, the main industry is recycling, small output factories and textiles. There have been many plans for redevelopment, all largely opposed by residents as the informal settlers would not be accounted for in any consolidation plans.

This was a two episode documentary, I have to say Kevin did a good job, the documentary shows the arguments for and against redeveloping shanty towns, and really clearly depicts life in a slum.

4) Drain the Ocean

Available to view on 4OD by clicking on the link below:

Drain the Ocean - Watch online (Not through college though)

This was a really interesting way of looking at the ocean floor, covering tectonics, coastal and mountain geomorphology and the degree to which tectonics has influenced our modern day landscape. The scale of the features within the oceans are astounding, mountains four miles high along the transverse faults, drops of several kilmoneters straight off the Bahamas banks, and a description of how they are formed by biological activity. The world with no water is a planet of vast plains, collossal mountains and rift valleys that dwarf the East African Rift. A lot of it is CGI combined with GIS, but this is useful in and of itself to geographers, especially as this kind of technology will allow us to accurately reveal landscapes formed during the last Ice age, yielding potential clues as to what to expect with future fluctuations in temperature.

This is a view of the Pacific with no water, Hawaii exposed as a huge range of mountains, towering far above the Himalaya if measured from the base. The link should be good for at least a month, an excellent documentary for global tectonics and students doing geology as well as geography.

5) Earth: The Climate Wars

I know, another Iain Stewart one, but this one has as real focus on climate change, it looks at evidence, prediction and reconstruction of past climatic events. This one is available to view online, on google videos

Episode 1 - Climate Wars

These three episodes cover an awful lot of the theory of the climate modele, this is an excellent resource for the current A2 module!

So, five TV shows you can access, there is no reason not to reach your four hours reading for the next few weeks! As soon as you've watched any of them, leave a comment to let others know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. I too watched the Human Planet series and found it truly fascinated and although it has a slightly more tenuous link, like you said, to Geography, I would strongly recommend that anyone who hasn't yet watched it does so! I found it interesting to see how many people have adapted to the environment they live in and used it and then how, thanks to the last episode on cities, a comparison could be made to how we have just smothered the surrounding environment with concrete. I must admit that I hadn't thought about it possibly being evidence to support population optimists but I now see where you are coming from. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it has possibly been one of the best ongoing documentaries on TV for a while - defintely well worth watching!