Monday, April 1, 2013

The Beetles are Coming: Watch It!

Only this morning the check out cashier stopped me to snap: "You've been writing about coyotes. Then dogs. Then beavers. What's up with ya?"
I had to carefully explain that as a TV reporter I have to criticize what's coming up on TV.
But she was having none of that.
"I mean did you see that Joan Rivers call Adele fat? Write about that will ya?"
Which is why I approached the latest The Nature Of Things documentary The Beetles Are Coming with some trepidation.
It premieres on CBC-TV's The Nature Of Things Thursday night at 8.
Have I turned into a nature freak? I decided to proceed cautiously and watch only a few minutes of this new production. After all it was directed by International Emmy winner David York.
And it's based on Andrew Nikiforuk's book Empire Of The Beetle.
But I couldn't stop watching --this one will surely win some awards later on.
I thought I knew everything about the deforestation of British Columbia forests by this predator that's about the size of a grain of rice. Somehow I'd gotten it all mixed up because this is not another example of the invasion of a foreign insect into Canada.
Turns out pine beetles and the mighty lodgepole pines have been co-existing for millions of years.
The beetles' natural enemy has always been the severe B.C. winters that routinely decimate 80 per cent of larvae.
But over the past 20 years or so as global warming increased more of these beetles have survived balmy winters to the extent they can now be seen on radar as vast clicking clouds chewing their way across the province.
York has done his customary excellent job with the visuals and he's enlisted an army of experts to carefully explain what is happening.
But then we see whole valleys of bright orange tress which are slowly dying and other swathes where only dead trees exist.
And there's York's saga of how the provincial government stepped in and encouraged unrestricted logging of the forests in an attempt to stop the march of the beetles.
In quick succession all types of trees were over logged and the price of lumber plummeted with all this product on the market. The fragile ecosystem was placed in peril, tourism (a major industry) was affected.
And still the beetles marched forward. There's fantastic photography of how beetles bore into the trees and use evasive techniques to avoid the tree's own defenses. And it suddenly struck me that this hour is far scarier than watching an entire season of The Walking Dead.
So far an area the size of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has been destroyed. And there's every expectation that the forests of Ontario may be next.
Made by Media 52 Inc. this one is perhaps the most important NOT hour of the season. Director of photography Michael Ellis has done wonders. But the film never sensationalizes. The story is laid out brilliantly. And it is all true.
And I still don't care what Joan Rivers called Adele.
MY RATING: ****.

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