All over the world, scientists are discovering traces of ancient floods on a scale that dwarfs even the most severe flood disasters of recent times. What triggered these cataclysmic floods, and could they strike again? In the Channeled Scablands of Washington State, the level prairie gives way to bizarre, gargantuan rock formations: house-sized boulders seemingly dropped from the sky, a cliff carved by a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, and potholes large enough to swallow cars. Like forensic detectives at a crime scene, geologists study these strange features and reconstruct catastrophic Ice Age floods more powerful than all the world’s top ten rivers combined. NOVA follows their efforts to uncover the geologic fingerprints of other colossal megafloods in Iceland and, improbably, on the seabed of the English Channel. There, another deluge smashed through a land bridge connecting Britain and France hundreds of thousands of years ago and turned Britain into an island for the first time. These great disasters ripped through terrain and transformed continents in a matter of hours—and similar forces reawakened by climate change are posing an active threat to mountain communities throughout the world today.
In 1998, wildlife enthusiast and photographer Chris Packham had a remarkable encounter with the Orang Rimba, a tribe of hunter gatherers in the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. It was the first time he had ever seen people living in perfect harmony with their environment. One photograph in particular that Chris took, a picture of a young tribal girl, has since become immensely important to him as a barometer of how we are treating our planet. In this real-life detective story, with no clues as to her identity or whereabouts other than his original photograph, Chris sets off to Sumatra 20 years on to try to find her; the girl in the picture. Chris's search is further complicated because her tribe is nomadic and often cover vast distances on foot, and since he was last there, millions of hectares of her rainforest habitat has been destroyed. Piecing together the clues, Chris discovers to his horror that the girl's close-knit group of Orang Rimba was attacked not long after he met them, and a number of them killed. But was the girl among them? Chris travels into the heart of Sumatra and tries to discover the girl's fate by meeting the men who pulled the murdered tribespeople's bodies out of the river. On his way, he discovers just how much of Sumatra's once pristine rainforests have been replaced by palm oil plantations, palm oil which is in around 50% of the products we buy in our supermarkets. Chris learns some uncomfortable truths about how we are all in some way connected to deforestation.
2018 • Environment