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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #37
January 09, 2008

Cherish or Perish

Planet Earth + Family Action List for Green Living 2008

We have fallen in love with the BBC's sumptuously-shot documentary series Planet Earth. Narrator David Attenborough takes viewers on a breathtaking tour of our planet, dropping in on elephants searching for water in the Gobi desert, snow leopards in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and pods of dolphins dining in the Azores. Our kids (not nature film lovers) went along for the ride, mesmerized by photography so intimate that a giraffe alone in the wild has no idea he's being filmed by a noisy helicopter above, thanks to the digital zoom on a high-def camera. The film takes advantage of time-lapse technology so spring changes to summer, and fall mutates to winter before children's astonished eyes. With animals and locations grouped together by subject -- Deep Ocean, or Jungles, Mountains -- we traveled all over the globe and got a rich sense of the vast diversity of our Earth. Whether you purchase the DVD set for your private collection, or rent a disc at a time, this series will provide countless hours of entertainment.

At the end of Planet Earth, narrator David Attenborough proclaims "We can now destroy or we can cherish - the choice is ours." After watching this compelling documentary, our kids unanimously voted to cherish, so we made a New Year's Resolution to figure out how our family could make a difference. We know that North Americans consume well more than our fair share of the world's resources (see City Savvy below, for a link to Jared Diamond's recent Op-Ed column in the New York Times), so we started thinking about our own consumption habits. To empower the kids, we came up with a list of small steps that our family could work on together, like bringing re-usable grocery bags for food shopping, turning off the water when we're brushing our teeth, re-using our towels before tossing them into the laundry and purchasing seafood that does not deplete the ocean's bounty. See Below for KOTC's Kids Take Action ideas -- we hope your family will join ours in having a Green 2008.

 
Film Title: Planet Earth
Directed By: The British Broadasting Corporation
2007, Rated U, 550 minutes


Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • Why It's Worth It: The producers of this film spent five years getting this gorgeous, high-definition footage. Extremely well shot and elegantly edited, every family will enjoy having this 5-part DVD in their library as a resource. Each episode covers a specific topic (Mountains, Caves, Jungles, etc.) but hopscotches around the globe to show the diversity and inhabitants of each habitat. With wonderful "Diaries" after each chapter (explaining how the camera crews got the toughest shots) and a coda on environmentalism, this series is a remarkable document of our time.
  • Bonus on DVD: Such an undertaking as Planet Earth naturally lends itself to environmental cautions, which arise as elegant truths. An additional three episodes tackle the thorny issues of extinction, wilderness preservation, and the future of conservation. Each is an additional hour of footage, and interviews. Click here for a brief summary of the shows.
  • How to Watch It: Definitely buy this DVD. A young clerk at Best Buy gushed "this is the best money you'll ever spend on a DVD," and we concur. Be sure to choose the BBC version with narration by David Attenborough. (Sigourney Weaver narrates the American version.) The series is impossible to digest in even a few sittings so we recommend watching it gradually - perhaps, an hour on one weekend, and another hour at a later date, and so on until you've seen them all.
  • Red Flags: In most episodes, there is an instance of one animal hunting and killing another; viewers follow one animal is stalking another - hyenas ganging up on impala, Nile crocs killing water buffalo, etc. Viewers can tell that a 'kill' is coming (allowing you time to fast-forward) and nothing is portrayed as gore for the sake of gore. It's just the reality of life in the wild.
  • Format Wars: Some versions of Planet Earth are sold in the Hi-Def format, some in Blue-Ray and some in normal DVD format. Be sure to buy (or rent) a version that you can play at home.

Our tips for talking with your kids about this film:

  • Documentary Savvy: The BBC also produced a wonderful series on the oceans of the world, Blue Planet: Seas of Life, which is also a moving portrait of the sea, it's secrets and it's resources.
  • Ecological Savvy: Watching the final, bonus episode on the conservation movement "Living Together" will spark plenty of conversation about how environmentalists try to motivate consumers and raise money for their noble causes.


 
Kids Take-Action List - Green Resolutions for 2008


8 Family Resolutions To Help Cherish Planet Earth in 2008:
  • Learn About Our Human Footprints: Here's an online quiz for kids to learn about their own carbon footprint and how their choices make a difference. And, we've found a few wonderful sites for all questions, topics and reviews on the subject. National Geographic hosts The Green Guide, and New American Dream hosts an action network called Turning the Tide.
  • Pack Greener Lunchboxes : Did you know that 3.5 billion pounds of lunchbox garbage is generated each year? Our kids decided to help make a dent in the trash by choosing planet-friendly lunch boxes. Most markets feature re-usable sections but two KOTC subscribers created garbage-free lunchboxes. Click here to visit Lunchopolis).
  • Get Water Wise: Turning off the water while tooth-brushing, re-using towels before laundering and taking shorter showers is so 2007. This year, we decided to cut back on plastic water bottle usage. At home, we keep glasses in easy-to-reach places, and a pitcher of cold water in the frig. For school, we purchased non-leaching plastic bottles that fit in lunchboxes. And, for sports practices, our kids love Camelbak bottles with built-in straws (we chose a different color for everyone in the family so we could use them at home as well). Click here for a downloadable guide to good and bad numbers on the bottom of plastic containers and bottles.
  • One Fish, Two Fish: Admittedly, our kids don't adore seafood, but they're intrigued with the idea that the oceans are being depleted and did some online research, and wound up sending their friends free, on-line postcards about the ocean's sustainability problem. Click here to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium's excellent, educational website and learn what fish are sustainable, print out a great down-loadable seafood guide, and choose cute e-mail postcards that the kids can send to their friends. (Ocean's Alive is also an excellent resource for fish choices.)
  • Get Unplugged: Before bedtime, our kids do a power check and turn off electricity guzzlers like computers and cell phone chargers that aren't in use. To make it easier, we purchased powerstrips (Click here for a powerstrip that turns off all related power once you power down at night). Don't forget those i-pod chargers, treadmills and coffee makers!
  • Beyond Paper-or-Plastic: Cities like San Francisco have banned the dreaded plastic bag, indicating that the paper-or-plastic question may soon become obsolete. Don't wait for LA to do the same... "Be the change you want to see happen" by carrying your own reusable bags. It's a great feeling to leave the market with groceries packed in bags your brought yourself. Our KOTC bag would look great on you!
  • Go Paperless: Let your kids help you save trees. Click here to to an organization that will put you on do-not-send lists to cut down on junk mail. And remember, digital statements, bills and cameras (fewer prints!) all help!
  • Green Cleaning: Household cleaning supplies can be placed with simple solutions, saving your kids from toxic fumes and your wallet from expensive cleaning supplies. Click here and learn how to clean your house with simple products like vinegar and baking soda. We love the Mrs. Meyer products at Whole Foods for dishes and other daily chores.

Our tips for extending this adventure:


 
Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.



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Click here and visit the Kids Off the Couch store at Amazon.com.