Karla Peterson: In “Our great national parks”, Netflix spins optimism | Entertainment

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Here is the monito del monte.

Weighing less than 2 ounces, this little opossum has been around since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Resident of Chile and Argentina, the monito del monte is the only surviving species of the order Microbiotheria. And thanks to its extremely messy eating habits, it helps spread the seeds of more than 20 species of plants in the forests of Chile and Argentina.

The monito is also one of many animals in extreme close-up in “Our Great National Parks,” a new Netflix series dedicated to the jaw-dropping, breathtaking and uplifting wonders of the world’s most stunning national parks.

Arriving just in time for Earth Day on April 22, the five-episode series focuses on a handful of the world’s more than 4,000 national parks. The series – which was produced and narrated by former President Barack Obama – travels from the lush rainforests of Gunung Leuser National Park in Indonesia to the coves and beaches of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, with stops in the Tsavo National Park in Kenya and Chilean Patagonia. .

His cameras capture the nighttime movements of black rhinos congregating at a Kenyan waterhole, Chilean beetles clenching their jaws in a battle for a mate and the first-ever video of a 2-month-old killer whale taking part in the hunt. gray whale calf.

But whether it’s gasps, laughs or goosebumps, “Our Great National Parks” has a message for the humans at home:

We are not entirely doomed. Not yet.

Like any series about responsible nature, “Our Great National Parks” cannot talk about the wonders of the natural world without acknowledging the many ways this world is under siege. No one here is pretending that climate change, habitat loss and pollution don’t exist.

But in the world’s national parks, endangered animal and plant populations are returning, farmland is being returned to a wild state, and there are sweeping views of the stars where light pollution used to be.

In the national parks, hope abounds. And this series wants you to revel in it.

The first episode, “A World of Wonder”, is the only one that features multiple parks. As it leaps from Loango National Park on the west coast of Africa to Yakushima National Park in Japan and beyond, “A World of Wonder” acts as a grand introduction to the breathtaking reserves and shrines of the world and the creatures that thrive in it.

There are Loango’s surfer hippos, which are captured in all their floating glory in stunning drone footage. In Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, the three-toed sloth is the unwitting host to the micro-kingdom of more than 80 species of fungi living in its thick, perpetually moist fur.

And in a stressful yet stunning sequence, a group of endangered Von der Decken’s sifakas (a type of lemur) traverse the jagged limestone pinnacles of Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha. Hats off to the intrepid humans who filmed this feat of nature.

This first installment also sets the tone and model for the series.

Although the filmmakers worked closely with scientists, conservationists, local guides and other experts, there are no interviews filmed with any of them. There are no graphic sequences of endangered animals. Even when one animal chases and kills another, the deaths aren’t too bloody. Climate change and other threats are acknowledged, but overlooked.

Instead, the series offers you expertly constructed, anthropomorphized vignettes of animals taking on the extraordinary challenges of feeding, mating, and raising children in locations ranging from heavenly to perilous. All of these vignettes are told in a friendly, yet passionate way by the 44th President of the United States, who doesn’t have to push too hard to get you invested in the stories he wants to tell.

Over the course of five episodes, you’ll see a young mountain lion attempt to take down a guanaco (a relative of the llama) that’s almost triple its weight; humpback whales gorge themselves on swarms of anchovies in Monterey Bay; a young Andean condor learning to fly; and the aforementioned monito del monte, returning to the communal nest after a night spent saving the forest.

The storytelling sometimes wanders into dad-joke territory, and some scenes are a little too scripted. (Seagull reaction shot, anyone?) But that’s a very small price to pay for such an inspiring and awe-inspiring look at the world around us.

And throughout, “Our Great National Parks” reminds viewers of the progress made in conservation since Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872.

Today, approximately 15% of the world’s land and 8% of our oceans are protected by parks and reserves. In Monterey Bay, nature thrives in one of our most populous states. Ecotoursim brings millions of dollars to Patagonia. There is a baby boom of mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

As the poet Emily Dickinson said, “‘Hope’ is the thing with the feathers.” In “Our Great National Parks”, hope also has fur, scales, gills and claws. Good thing too. It’s a climate jungle and the world needs all the help it can get.

“Our Great National Parks” is streaming on Netflix.

(Karla Peterson is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune.)

Copyright 2022 Tribune Content Agency.

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