Review: ‘A Perfect Planet’ Episode 2: ‘The Sun’ looks at how energy arrives on, and powers, life on the planet

Last week on A Perfect Planet the series looked at volcanoes and their extraordinary influence on this planet’s biosphere. This week, they look at a more obvious element in how the world functions: the sun.

The sun is such an obvious choice to highlight when you’re thinking about things that influence the planet it’s nearly shocking that it wasn’t the subject of the first episode. Visiting both equatorial regions where the sun is out for the same amount of time every day and the far north regions where the sun disappears for half the year, this weeks episode highlights several incredible species and behaviours that once again have never been photographed.

The most striking of these is probably the massive herd of arctic hares being hunted by wolves, or maybe the nearly microscopic fig wasps entire life cycle (filmed inside a fig. Or hell, worlds fastest ant speeding around the Sahara desert looking for food at the height of the desert day.

For me though, the most shocking thing in the whole episode is the realization that the sun delivers more energy to the planet in the span of an hour than we as a species consume in the span of a year. We are still systematically poisoning the biosphere by burning fossil fuels (among other things), why isn’t there a greater push to harness the sun’s power? Why don’t we slap solar panels on everything?

These nature documentaries have always been stunning, and while they still inspire awe, they also give me a twinge of sadness when I watch them. They’ve become a record of the planet as it is, and soon they might be the only record we have of how the planet was.

The Sun is ubiquitous in our lives, and the balance that makes life on this planet work. It’s fascinating to see its influences up close, and once again I can’t wait to see what this series looks at next week.

Other Thoughts:

  • The frog that cryogenically freezes every winter must be the inspiration for both science and science fiction, right?
  • I already knew that when you eat a fig you’re probably eating a ton of bugs but…. yeah. I know that now.
  • Snakes. Why did it have to be sakes.

A Perfect Planet episode two: ‘The Sun‘ premieres today, January 10th, on BBC Earth at 8 pm eastern/pacific.

Photography copyright Sarah-Jane Walsh/Silverback Films