#SustainableSundays: ‘The Year Earth Changed’

19 September 2021

Do you remember seeing those incredible images of the crystal-clear, blue water in the Venice canals at the start of the coronavirus lockdowns? It’s been calculated that at the height of the pandemic, the world saw 114 million fewer tourists in popular locations, a 17% reduction in global shipping, and a 6% fall in C02 emissions. In the UK alone, nitrogen dioxide, a key pollutant caused by vehicles, dropped by 52% during the initial spring lockdown. The reduced global activity caused by the pandemic gave our environment a break from the relentless pollution that the modern world produces and showed us what a low-carbon-emissions planet could look like; clean, fresh and bright.   

Nature's resilience and its ability to rebound from pollution is the topic of the Sir David Attenborough narrated AppleTV+ documentary 'The Year Earth Changed', which became the most viewed documentary in the platform's short history! This eye-opening doc reveals the ways in which human behaviour impacts on the natural world and puts a positive spin on the devastating pandemic lockdowns by showing us how our environment thrived whilst we were isolated.  

 Image credits © Apple TV+

The one-hour programme shows uplifting stories of increased bird song in deserted cities, new methods of communication between sea life creatures, and the sighting of adventurous capybaras in quiet South American suburbs. Narrating the doc, Attenborough says:  

"Overnight our lives were put on pause. But as we stop, remarkable things start to change in the natural world. Clearer air, cleaner waters, and animals starting to flourish in ways we hadn't seen for decades."  

Attenborough’s presence in the documentary is less strong than in his other programmes, like ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Blue Planet’, but his instantly recognisable and galvanizing voice lends itself perfectly to this striking special, which aligns with the 94-year-old broadcaster’s keen and urgent advocacy for environmental action in recent years.  

  Image credits © Apple TV+

The programme shows scientists studying the natural environment, untainted by human action, as they try to gather information and learn lessons from this unique moment in environmental history. Rather than blindly returning to how things were before the pandemic, this doc encourages us to reassess and re-evaluate our habits and behaviour in-light of the astonishing results of a year of reduced human activity.  

This inspiring special reminds us to continue to nurture a harmonious relationship with nature, by showing us the immediate effects of our actions, making it the perfect subject for this week's #SustainableSundays post!  

Have you watched this doc? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment on social media! Which environmentally themed film or documentary should we cover next? Let us know by contacting marketing@londonfilmacademy.com, or contacting us on our social channels!