Some of my fondest childhood memories were in front of the TV with my whole family watching the National Geographic channel. Those weekend mornings shaped the next decade as I grew up with an insatiable curiosity to know what happens everywhere, all the time.
I was the “But why?” kid. No amount of picture books on animals or nature tours on vacations ever dampened this thirst for knowledge that follows me still.
Nature documentaries were a major part of my life growing up. Think David Attenborough with his calm description of hibernating bears, Steve Irwin and his crocodile friends (RIP Steve), Austen.
Stevens going out of his way to manhandle an anaconda or even Bear Grylls, the ‘tabloid of nature content’ on TV. I watched them all.
My curious child self was so attuned to nature, mimicking those I saw on TV as I “investigated” leaves and bugs in my garden. I pretended earthworms were snakes as I picked them up with care and observed them as they wiggled back into the mud. These shows taught me to love and respect nature, to treat it with caution, for although it is mighty and I would definitely get swallowed whole by an anaconda if it ever came to, nature is delicate and at risk. Thanks to these shows, I was introduced at an early age to the climate crisis.
As a kid, if anybody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I proudly claimed that “I want to be a herpetologist!”. I was five when I knew, for sure, that when I grew up, I would wear mainly khakis and hiking boots as I travelled through the South American rain forests battling pythons for science.
However, woe befell when I found that some shows on these science channels are not entirely factual. Ripping off my rose-tinted glasses, I can see the blatant fakeness of Bear Gryll’s stunts and the fact that he did not spend all night out in the arctic cold like he said he did (how dare you lie to a 5-year-old Bear!) Also, drinking urine is one of the worst things you can do for dehydration. It begs the question, was everything I watched false?
Most probably not (now is not the time to question your entire life). Although, from experience, I can tell that these shows perpetuated a US-centric, mildly invasive point of view that sometimes looked down on the Global South, which for the next two decades, marred my view of the world.
They may not be perfect, but the way I see it, it is what they perpetuated in me that matters most. I care about the world, and I attribute that innate sense of passion to the people who showed me nature. When I put on my rose-tinted glasses I thank these shows for setting off the spark of curiosity and care that I have taken with me since, and will continue to carry forever.