Evolution Earth documentary comments on polar bear survival & adaptation: let’s see how they do

From Polar Bear Science

Susan Crockford

Just a heads-up that this week, PBS in North America will broadcast the “polar” episode of a new documentary called “Evolution Earth.” In my area, it’s scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 10:00 PM. It remains to be seen whether this is really about evolution or (given those involved in its production) simply more climate change propaganda similar to that promoted by Attenborough, but I intend to watch and report back.

About the Show: “Evolution Earth embarks on a global expedition to reveal the animals keeping pace with a planet changing at superspeed. Heading out across the globe to distant wilds and modern urban environments, five episodes track how animals are moving, using ingenuity to adapt their behavior, and even evolving in unexpected ways.

We follow heart-warming tales of resilience that redefine our understanding of evolution, and hint at how nature can show us a path towards a sustainable future for Planet Earth. The series is narrated by Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton, who guides us through each episode in an intimate narrative style, drawing on his background as an evolutionary biologist.”

Episode 4 | Ice “At the planet’s frozen extremes, shifts in animal movement and behavior reveal vital information about our future world. Examine polar bears in the Arctic, penguins in Antarctica and other animals surviving in icy worlds.

Find tips for watching outside the US here.

What to expect

Will evolutionary principles prevail? Hard to say but here are some hints. The film is produced by an outfit called “Passion Planet.” I have not seen anything else they have done in their 20 year history in the business but their name does not give me much confidence that the presentation of unadulterated science is their primary goal.

On top of that, the director of the “Ice” episode is Charlotte Lathane. Her name rings alarm bells for me because she was the director/producer of that cringe-worthy Attenborough-narrated BBC film aimed at scaring the pants off viewers, “Extinction: The Facts.

I wrote about this film in Fallen Icon (Crockford 2022), edited a bit for brevity:

It featured the so-called Sixth Mass Extinction that had been a WWF hobbyhorse since 2016 and one Attenborough had eagerly climbed aboard from the beginning (Doyle 2021; Westcott 2016). However, this concept has few supporters and many critics: it is not something serious scientists espouse (Lomborg 2001; Steele 2013).

The film got well-deserved criticism as well as the usual, almost automatic, raves (Clark 2020; Jones 2020). However, Extinction: The Facts was different from the others in one important respect: it was the first time the Covid-19 pandemic entered Attenborough’s narrative.

Blaming the emergence of Covid-19 on declining biodiversity turned out to be the companion to a bizarre notion that climate change itself had been largely responsible for the Covid-19 epidemic, which Attenborough and the BBC now seemed to be actively promoting. This unsubstantiated claim provided the foundation for increasing pressure on nations and their citizens to ensure that a global agreement to deal with climate change was reached in 2020.

I’ve mentioned before that the story of polar bear evolution cannot be told with a thorough and rational discussion of natural climate change (Crockford 2023). I admit I don’t have high hopes but it will be interesting to see what approach this documentary takes on the critical issues of evolution and adaptation of polar bears.

Cover-and-glacial-graph-composite-1 (1)


Clark, R. 2020. ‘What David Attenborough’s ‘Extinction: The Facts’ didn’t tell you’. The Spectator Magazine (UK), 14 September. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/what-david-attenborough-s-extinction-the-facts-didn-t-tell-you

Crockford, S.J. 2022. Fallen Icon: Sir David Attenborough and the Walrus Deception. Amazon KDP, Victoria.

Crockford, S.J. 2023. Polar Bear Evolution: A Model for How New Species Arise. Amazon KDP, Victoria.

Doyle, J. 2021. ‘Earth is doomed, probably, says David Attenborough in Extinction: The Facts’. The Globe and Mail (Canada), 30 March. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/article-earth-is-doomed-probably-says-david-attenborough-in-extinction-the/

Jones, J.P.G. 2020. ‘‘Extinction: The Facts’: Attenborough’s new documentary is surprisingly radical’. The Conversation, 14 September. https://theconversation.com/extinction-the-facts-attenboroughs-new-documentary-is-surprisingly-radical-146127

Lomborg, B. 2001. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge University Press, New York. pg 249-257.

Steele, J. 2013. Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Scepticism. CreateSpace Publishing.

Westcott, B. 2016. ‘Sixth mass extinction? Two-thirds of wildlife may be gone by 2020: WWF’. CNN, 28 October. https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/26/world/wild-animals-disappear-report-wwf/index.html

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September 27, 2023 6:28 pm

I’ve wondered for a while about why it is that the warmists are so obsessed with polar bears. Most people have never seen one in the wild, there are many other readily identifiable species in the cold climates of the world, and theoretically there should be other species vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change if we are to believe anything that they say (which is nothing). Sure, they’re cute, but so are Arctic hares, Arctic foxes, puffins etc. And did it not dawn on them that maybe polar bears can survive like any other Ursid can?

Walter R. Hogle
Reply to  johnesm
September 27, 2023 7:48 pm

I think they’ve lost the polar bear argument. In some areas, there are increasing populations while in others there are decreasing populations. Most areas don’t have any data to make a definitive conclusion.

Robert B
Reply to  Walter R. Hogle
September 28, 2023 12:23 am

When a 230 can turn up to feast on a whale carcass on an island only 7600 km2 (about 50 miles by 50 miles), I suspect massive under counting. https://www.livescience.com/60569-polar-bears-feast-on-whale-carcass.html

when searching for the link, there are dozens of “rare” events of polar bears feeding on whale carcasses. There is also some dumb-awful theory on how they survived less ice in the Arctic before. Anything but as long as there is spring-ice melt, it really doesn’t matter if the ice lasts the summer.

Martin Brumby
Reply to  johnesm
September 27, 2023 7:58 pm

Yes, I do wish all our GangGreen chums would tickle the tummies of those cute Polar Bears.

Of course, those liking warmer climes and perhaps remembering those amusing Hippopotamus ballerinas in Disney’s “Fantasia”, are strongly advised how much fun petting a Hippo must be.

After all, the Greenies love to follow “The Science”. And “don’t need no steenkin’ facts”, thanks very much!

Reply to  johnesm
September 28, 2023 3:15 am

As dumb as this sounds as an answer, I think it comes down to Coca Cola commercials.

For the last couple of decades Coke has run Christmas ads showing lovable polar bear moms and cubs frolicking in the snow drinking coke. That has made polar bears into darlings of both parents and children for a generation now. THAT is what people think of when they think of polar bears today. I can assure you that in prior generations polar bears were generally regarded as vicious predators of both man and beast.

What do you think the societal opinion of polar bears would be if Coke ran Christmas commercials showing polar bear moms with blood all over their fur, chomping down on the heads of baby seals, ripping them apart, and feeding the pieces to their ravenous cubs – while enjoying their Cokes?

By the way, have you also noticed that the animal rights groups are no longer producing documentaries showing humans clubbing baby seals to death to harvest their fur? That was a big thing 30 years ago … but ever since the lovable polar bear moms and kids started showing up in Coke commercials, the baby seals became suddenly invisible.

Richard Page
Reply to  Duane
September 28, 2023 7:29 am

That’s a good point; also helps that they are a long way away from their target audience who can’t just pop out and see them in the wild and see that they are more abundant. Similar thing for the penguins and the ‘cute penguin’ films and tv shows – cute but too far away to easily check the alarmist narrative.

Reply to  Duane
September 28, 2023 12:05 pm

Baby Seals are now as invisible as the whales.

September 27, 2023 7:36 pm

I wonder if they will mention that the Earth is in a 2 million-year ice age?

Richard Page
Reply to  scvblwxq
September 28, 2023 7:33 am

If they do they’ll twist it. Current claptrap narrative is that man-made (fossil fuel) CO2 has delayed the onset of the next glaciation by thousands of years. I wonder if their muppet disciples have twigged that, if this was true, then decarbonising would automatically plunge them into a glaciation?

Reply to  Richard Page
September 28, 2023 10:19 am

I for one, am still pondering how delaying the start of the next ice age got twisted into a bad thing.

Reply to  scvblwxq
September 28, 2023 7:35 am

Nope. They aren’t really interested in educational TV anymore. PBS tells you what to think instead of teaching how to think. Remember, keep your checkbook handy while watching PBS.

Tom Halla
September 27, 2023 7:49 pm

I would not expect any rigor or fairness out of PBS on anything.

September 27, 2023 7:55 pm

Well, they’re wrong about evolution. It’s not science, it’s a fairy tale. So I don’t expect anything good at all. God built in the capacity for adaptation. All the variation we see is just that.

geoguy 2023
Reply to  patg2
September 27, 2023 8:41 pm

Having worked in the arctic islands in Canada in the early seventies on a geological a field party and at other times on drilling rigs i can only say that polar bears are very adaptive to their environment and will do well as climate changes in the Arctic either way. warmer or colder. Having flown over the arctic in helicopters and aircraft at low levels I can only say there is a lot of available food for polar bears in the arctic islands. this is primarily seals and at times walrus residing in colonies. In the further north areas around Axel Heiberg Island we never carried guns. No polar bears that far north. As we moved further south to the north end of Devon Island, we encountered more polar bears feeding on seals and trying to feed on walrus. Based on what I observed over the years is that polar bears are highly adaptive and will be around for a long time. Although I have not been back there for years there is nothing that I see is a big change up until this time.

Reply to  patg2
September 27, 2023 9:27 pm

you forgot the /sarc tag (I hope)

Reply to  Redge
September 28, 2023 11:21 am

It’s ok – if someone contests an idea, even one as researched as evolution, it keeps the scientists on their toes. They still haven’t done a good job of explaining how you get something as complicated as DNA in any reasonable time – not trying to start a flame war, but no scientist should rest on their laurels and stop asking questions. Don’t get me started on dark matter/energy.

Reply to  patg2
September 28, 2023 10:21 am

Adaptation is evolution.

September 27, 2023 8:31 pm

Episode !: All climate change, all the time. It was special when the butterfly woman claimed that life would outlast climate change, but humans likely would not … never mind those pesky glaciations and hot hot hot warm periods which humans have already overcome.

Conclusion: pretty pictures, but watch it with the sound off.

Reply to  MaroonedMaroon
September 28, 2023 11:30 am

Good advice! Play some of your favourite music while watching with the sound off, yes miles – parsecs better than listening to some climate-Jehovah’s witness drone on about how we’re doomed from the slightly milder weather.

September 27, 2023 8:32 pm

I expect that rather than any change in climate having a direct impact on the ability of the polar bears to acclimatise, it will be how it affects their food source as they will just follow the food supply and a warming climate may well be more beneficial rather than detrimental to such food sources.

Pat from Kerbob
Reply to  kalsel3294
September 27, 2023 10:50 pm

We already know this is true as there are far more polar bears now

Richard Page
Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
September 28, 2023 7:41 am

Well it is either that or the sharp dropoff in people shooting them, one or the other must be right.

Robert B
September 28, 2023 12:12 am

I’m not confident at all that it will be a science doco. “Superspeed” gives it away. The dictionary definition is designed to work at very fast speeds. So unless they did a Humpty Dumpty, evolution will work better with faster climate change.

Peta of Newark
September 28, 2023 1:23 am

Not quite polar bears but ‘Nature’ in the UK is now going extinct.

BBC:Nature crisis: One in six species at risk of extinction in Great Britain
And Yes It Effin Well Is – but NOT because of climate change

It is going extinct for the exact same reason that wild and other birds (via Bird Flu) are getting a similar respiratory afflictions to what we humans are getting (‘ordinary’ Flu and Covid)
Not very least as lot of birds, like us, don’t make their own Vitamin C

Despite Idso’s assertion that Vitamin C (in his oranges) is “up by 15% because of CO₂ fertilation” – that is from an insanely low baseline where Vitamin C in fruits and veggies is down by 85% from 3 generations ago.
Hence many (not all) wild birds – also domestics fed on grain – that depend on Vitamin C from their diet, ain’t getting any and bingo – the same respiratory afflictions turn up in us and them.
It is no coincidence.

But no matter, Modern Science and Junk Medicine tells our esteemed leaders that a War on Motorists, hideous arbitrary capricious ULEZ charges, 15 minutes cities and randomly placed road-block flowerpots will fix it.
Maybe Alice would have endured such garbage & nonsense but the rest of us – in this age of ‘Modern Never Better Science’?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 28, 2023 11:38 am

Please provide some links re: vitamin C.

September 28, 2023 4:26 am


I assume here “cannot be told with a thorough and rational discussion” that you meant “without”?

September 28, 2023 9:13 am

Isn’t awesome how eco-fanatics can make up millions of species that they think might be still left to be discovered, then also imagine how many would be going extinct, and then generate a ‘research’ paper, and of course the accompanying book and documentary, all without any physical evidence – the bodies.

Isn’t Climate Science wonderful? Gravy train, popularity, “eco warrior” status points, and you don’t even have to be a good scientist!

Reply to  PCman999
September 28, 2023 9:14 am

In fact being a good scientist would probably get in the way, all that stuff about the search for knowledge, truth and integrity.

September 28, 2023 9:17 am

Every time I read about polar bear and arctic movie making AND these poor Antarctic penguins I wonder: did these film folk took a sailing vessel between the north and South Pole?

September 28, 2023 10:16 am

Before the climate crew gets their panties in a wad, regarding that left end of that chart, CO2 has only been rising for about 70 years. That is a time period way too short to show up on that graph.

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