Shock horror headlines in the press about yet another David Attenborough scoop - the mass suicide of walruses forced to gather on beaches because of climate change.
Well, not quite suicide, in that they were too shortsighted to notice they were jumping off cliffs.
Either way, it was even more harrowing than when lemmings did it for Walt Disney (only the lemmings didn’t, since it turns out the scenes were faked, even though Richard Dawkins used it in debate to show nature is cruel and godless.)
However, all may not be as it seems. In fact all is not as it seems, as beach haulouts have been recorded back to 1932, when populations get high. Polar bear zoologist Susan Crockford disputed the walrus phenomenon in 2014 both in video and article form. See her page here.
Dr Crockford’s new analysis of the Netflix video is here.
It’s interesting to ask which version we prefer, and why. Financially speaking, it seems to be the US Government and Netflix v an independent scientist who isn’t a national treasure like David Attenborough.
PS, I write a bit about the use of “nature porn” in Attenborough’s films in God’s Good Earth, ch11, p160. Whether the motive is simply dramatic effect, or promoting a wider anxiety like the destruction of the planet, it is still emotional manipulation, rather than scientific documentary. A shame that even in our understanding of nature we are manipulated by human bias.