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Extinction: The Facts

   2020    Nature
With a million species at risk of extinction, Sir David Attenborough explores how this crisis of biodiversity has consequences for us all, threatening food and water security, undermining our ability to control our climate and even putting us at greater risk of pandemic diseases.
Everything in the natural world is connected in networks that support the whole of life on earth, and we are losing many of the benefits that nature provides to us. The loss of insects is threatening the pollination of crops, while the loss of biodiversity in the soil also threatens plants growth.
Last year, a UN report identified the key drivers of biodiversity loss, including overfishing, climate change and pollution. But the single biggest driver of biodiversity loss is the destruction of natural habitats. Seventy-five per cent of Earth's land surface (where not covered by ice) has been changed by humans, much of it for agriculture, and as consumers we may unwittingly be contributing towards the loss of species through what we buy in the supermarket. Human activities like the trade in animals and the destruction of habitats drive the emergence of diseases. Disease ecologists believe that if we continue on this pathway, this year’s pandemic will not be a one-off event.

Life

   2020    Science
Genetic breakthroughs have shed light on how life evolves in real-time. From filling in the missing links to creating a new species, in the last 50 years scientists have solved some of the biggest mysteries of evolution. In this episode, we look at revolutionary discoveries that shook the world and may shape our future.
Series: The Great Acceleration

Coming of Age In The Anthropocene

   2020    Nature
At 11 o'clock on New Year's Eve of the Cosmic Calendar, Homo erectus stood up for the first time, freeing its hands and earning the species its name. They began to move around, to explore, daring to risk everything to get to unknown places. Our Neanderthal relatives lived much as we did and did many of the things we consider to be 'human.' More restless than their cousins the Neanderthals and Denisovans, our Homo sapiens ancestors crossed seas and unforgiving landscapes, changing the land, ocean and atmosphere, leading to mass extinction. The scientific community gave our age a new name, 'Anthropocene.'
Since the first civilizations we've wondered if there's something about human nature that contains the seeds of our destruction. Syukuro Manabe was born in rural Japan and took an intense interest in Earth's average global temperature. In the 1960's, he would assemble the evidence he needed to predict the increase of Earth's temperature due to greenhouse gases until it becomes an uninhabitable and toxic environment, leading to our extinction. 'This doesn't have to be,' says Neil deGrasse Tyson, 'it's not too late. There's another hallway, another future we can still have; we'll find a way.'
Series: Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

   2020    Nature
When Homo sapiens, which means 'wise ones,' discovered and controlled fire hundreds of thousands of years ago, everything changed. Fire allowed us to cook food and heat dwellings, and it served as a focal point for storytelling and sharing cultural identity among community members. We don't yet have established parameters for what it means to be 'distinctly human,' It would seem the only thing that separates us from other animals, Neil deGrasse Tyson ponders, is our neurotic need to feel 'special'. Against the backdrop of the Halls of Extinction, Tyson insists that there must be a clear distinction between ourselves and animals that justifies our eating them, wearing them and even bringing an end to their species.
From the birth of the devil in ancient Persia to a searing story of saintliness among macaque monkeys, this episode is an exploration of human potential for change. It concludes with the story of how one of history's greatest monsters was transformed into one of its shining lights.
Series: Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Survival

   2018    Science
Our strange rock itself can also be lethal. We tend to think of Earth as our life support but it's not there to support us at all. It's a place that's violent, that's beautiful, that's crazy, that's intense. Mother Nature is a serial killer. We wouldn't be here without mass suicide and events so devastating it makes the extinction of the dinosaurs looks like a tea party. There have been 5 mass extinctions on the planet and 99.9 percent of all species that have ever lived are gone.
Explore the story of how life on Earth has evolved, becoming lethal for life to thrive.
Series: One Strange Rock

The Last Reef

   2012    Nature
Fly across iridescent tropical reefs, brush through a cloud of a million jellyfish, visit an alien world where the closer you look, the more you see, where the tiniest creatures support the greatest predators... We think of reefs as exotic, distant places with little or no connection to our everyday world. Yet every reef is a living city beneath the sea with a parallel existence to ours, distant yet undeniably connected. Reefs are hotspots of biodiversity as vital to life on earth as the rain-forests. They have been shaping our shorelines, literally forming islands and mountains, for millions of years. The fossil record shows that given time they have recovered from all of earth's major extinction events. Even reefs pulverised by atomic blasts at Bikini Atoll have regenerated. Yet within our lifetime reefs have come to face their greatest threat...