Our mothers washed it off us when we were children. We were fascinated with the stuff – we played in it, threw it, rolled in it, ate it. (Come on, you know you tried it.) Dirt. It’s everywhere and except for when it finds its way to the sides of our freshly washed cars or is traipsed across the living room carpet, we pretty much ignore it. But why? And what makes dirt so special, so necessary to our survival as human beings and as a planet in general? ”Dirt! The Movie,” its DVD on sale April 6th, 2010, explores these questions and more.
Initially I wasn’t sure what would make a movie about dirt so fascinating. As a studier of herbalism, I do spend my fair share of time in the stuff, so perhaps that was the catch. I wanted to find out more about the soil in which so many of my favorite plants make their homes. ”Dirt!” lets you in on something you may never have considered before: dirt is very much alive. It’s teeming with important microorganisms, all the things that make life, life. Without healthy soil, we can’t grow food, and we know what happens when we can’t eat. But unfortunately, it seems we humans have been neglecting the very stuff we’re made of. Erosion, pollution, and monoculture all contribute to the decline in our soil’s health. Global repercussions for our carelessness are becoming more and more apparent as many countries are losing their ability to farm the land.
But the good news is, much is being done to restore our connection to the earth and to the dirt with which it’s made. ”Dirt!” covers all the positive steps many people and organizations are making to clean things up a bit in respect to the ground. Traveling the globe, this documentary gives viewers a chance to think about the much-overlooked earth beneath our feet, providing excellent information, good humor, and an overall positive message that will inspire and motivate.
Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis, “Dirt! The Movie” was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival and was winner of the best documentary at the Visions Voices Environmental Film Festival. It also won Best Film for Our Future at the Mendocino Film Festival and the Best Green Documentary at the Maui Film Festival.
We think we’ve got it bad – disagreements at work, arguments over parking spots, fights over the last Haagen-Dazs in the grocery freezer. But what if you’re a wolf and a neighborhood bear wants your hard-earned breakfast kill? What then? Stand your ground or fight it out? And did you see those claws? Dear Lord, the claws!
Bears and wolves aren’t the only creatures of the wild at odds with one another, but they’re the focus of Nature’s episode entitled “Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves” produced by THIRTEEN and shown free on PBS.com. Filmed in Yellowstone National Park, Clash gives viewers an eyeful of not only nature’s beauty but its harshness. Life isn’t easy, even when you’re king of the forest, like the mighty grizzly.
“Clash” takes you through a few cycles of the season, following some of Yellowstone’s more popular residents as they go about the business of survival. As is to be expected, the visuals are stunning and the footage is fascinating. Families will enjoy this one. It’s exciting and filled with action, and without all the jumpy editing tricks, flashy effects, and jiggling camera shots many modern documentaries resort to. No, this one you can all watch without the Dramamine. Younger families may prefer to have eyes covered from time to time; after all, as I told my 3 1/2 year old, Mama bear has to feed her babies too – they’re hungry! (And for the record, my cub refused to let this Mama bear cover his eyes. He preferred to watch and receive my explanations after.)
“Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves” originally aired on PBS on January 17, 2010, and can be viewed for free on PBS.org/nature or on WNET.org. Or support the efforts of THIRTEEN by purchasing copies of this and others of the Nature series and build your family DVD library.
It’s Week 3 of our THIRTEEN Thursdays series, the group of dkM articles that shares with you a bit about the Nature series on PBS that I’ve been enjoying so much. The most recently watched episode in our family is Wild Balkans, a look at the almost magical world of the Balkan Peninsula. In this episode, we’re taken on a journey easily paralleled with J.R.R. Tolkien’s world in The Lord of the Rings. As viewers are transported from the Durmitor Mountains of Monetenegro to the Danube Delta of Romania, mystical, seemingly untouched lands are opened up; forests, wetlands, deeply secluded areas which lay around the Balkans and have managed to go strangely unchanged, even in an era where so much of our natural world has been disrupted and too often diminished.
But don’t be fooled – these areas have indeed been disturbed by human presence throughout the generations, but ironically it is this that has served to keep them safe. Much of these areas are war torn, some even containing abandoned land mines which keep humans clear of the area as the natural wilderness continues to flourish.
Wild Balkans originally aired on January 31, 2010, and can be viewed for free on PBS.org/nature or on WNET.org. Or support the efforts of THIRTEEN by purchasing copies of this and others of the Nature series and build your family DVD library.
And this is where I've spent much of my online time these days...
Recently I was watching a PBS special (Lord of the Ants), and it was mentioned that Naturalist E.O. Wilson had started a website that he hopes will eventually include every type of living thing on the planet. Massive project? You bet! That’s why I had to go see for myself. So as soon as I finished watching the show, I was at the computer checking out the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org). And now you may guess where the rest of my evening went…
The Encyclopedia of Life is not only fascinating, it’s surprisingly simple and easy to use. I found it was a very straightforward way to, say, search for the plants and herbs I’ve been studying with the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. The maps are great for finding whether or not a plant or animal lives in my area. And most items have at least one photo, sometimes dozens.
I just wanted to share my discovery with you, because this would make an excellent resource for kids and their school projects, as well as for parents. Boy, do I wish I’d had something like this for that 6th grade Birds of Michigan report!
Welcome to Week 2 of our THIRTEEN Thursdays series. As powerful a visual last week’s “Invasion of the Great Pythons” was, this week takes on a whole new adventure through “Nature”, as seen on PBS. THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG offers breathtaking documentary on the lives of hummingbirdds, truly one of the more beautiful of the wildlife programs I’ve seen. Using high-speed and infra-red cameras, “Nature” was able to gather hummingbird footage in incredible detail. Through this footage, I was surprised to discovery that hummingbirds are even more extraordinary when viewed in slow motion, their wings moving in graceful figure-eights as their tiny iridescent feathers capture the light like fairies from another world.
“Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air” is a fabulous documentary for the entire family. I watched with my husband and 3 1/2-year-old boy, and even my wiggly son stayed riveted to the program. I can guarantee this is one episode we’ll be watching again and again.
If you’re looking for a big change from the average brain-numbing television programming, “Nature” on PBS is the enriching and entertaining series for you. Too often these days, even doocumentaries have resorted to fast, flashy footage and a doomsday sensationalism to rope viewers in, but “Nature”, along with vast other worthy PBS programming, pulls viewers in the old-fashioned way – solid, brilliant and edifying documentaries that are good for the whole family.
“Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air” originally aired on January 10, 2010, and it can be viewed for free online at PBS.org/nature or WNET.org, along with over 30 other episodes of “Nature”. Or purchase the DVD’s online and start a worthwhile family collection while supporting THIRTEEN’s work.