Discovery Channel: Using Eco-tainment to Save The Planet

"Eco-tainment" - saving the planet by using entertainment techniques to promote the green movement.  Discovery Channel has mastered the art of eco-tainment.

On Planet Green:  Jimmy Buffet sings about saving sharks.    In Focus Earth, ABC’s Bob Woodward anchors a weekly series covering the hottest green news.  Ludacris and Tommy Lee "battle" to get the word out about the state of the environment in a ten-part series called Battleground Earth.  The battle culminates in a benefit concert at L.A.’s Greek Theater.  The winner headlines; the loser opens.

Ludacris is on stage now.  "Do you get the same buzz from alternative grass?" one journalist asks Luda and Tommy, slyly referring to Tommy Lee’s remark (by satellite) that he’s thinking of installing "that fake grass."  When asked about his tatoos, Ludacris outrageously and instantly responds that he "has a big peacock down his leg."

Ludacris just bought one of those new hybrid Chevy Tahoes.  (Word to Ludacris:  it’s still a big gas guzzler.)  Tommy Lee jokes he’s "saving the planet big time" because he just "doesn’t go anywhere."  He refuses to answer any questions about Pamela.

The biggest news coming out of Discovery is Animal Planet’s new seven-part docu-drama series Whale Wars, most likely debuting next November.  The show is filmed in Antarctica, in HD, aboard a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel.  It’s the environmental Deadliest Catch

Skirting the 1986 international ban on whale hunts, Japanese whalers have killed more whales in the last twenty years than they have in the fifty years prior, according to Sea Shepherd founder and Captain Paul Watson.  (The crew and Watson were on hand this morning to field questions.)

For three and half months each summer, the 35-member crew of a Sea Shepherd vessel -  a 60-meter long, 11-meter wide ship - leave port from Melbourne, Australia for the icy Antarctic waters and engage in a dangerous, non-violent campaign to stop the slaughter. 

Sea Shepherd operates a fleet of three vessels it calls "Neptune’s Navy": the RV Farley Mowat, the MV Steve Irwin, and the RV Sirenian, as well as several smaller boats.

According to wikipedia "Sea Shepherd endorses a deliberate policy of sinking or sabotaging vessels they believe have violated international whaling law…"

And, in fact, Captain Paul Watson proudly admitted to me in an interview that they’ve sunk a number of vessels so far, but asserts that no one was injured.  (Snippets of the video interview will be posted on Multichannel shortly.)  They openly call themselves eco-pirates and fly a Jolly Roger skull flag.

Hostage taking.  Capsized Zodiacs.  Even shootings.  It’s all in a days work for the crew as they track and chase Japanese harpoon vessels across Antarctica.  And, no, it’s not the Sea Shepherd crew engaging in these practices.  The Japanese whalers shot at the boat last year.  The Sea Shepherd crew wear bullet proof vests and one publicist admitted that Watson is a high value target.

It’s also an environmental love boat.  With a crew from 14 countries confined to a small ship over 90 days, romance blossoms. But there’s also the tedium - the laundry, the seasickness - relieved by the occasional poker game.

Animal Planet is there every step of the way, capturing some dramatic and gorgeous footage - some of it by helicopter.  And occasionally getting blasted by concussion grenades in the process.

For anyone who doubts that this type of intervention is necessary, international conventions/laws can be somewhat meaningless.  In the absence of any sort of enforcement,  Norway, Japan and other countries are free to flout whaling laws in unpatroled waters.

Whales are still harpooned but modern killing techniques are beyond cruel.  In the video, Paul Watson describes the techniques.

Btw, the Japanese have promised to escalate.  Watson says next year the Japanese may send in military vessels to shadow their whalers.   Hopefully, the presence of the Animal Planet crew on deck documenting every move (Animal Planet is already expecting to film a second season) will make the Japanese think twice about their support for this particular brand of barbarism.