CNN's Anderson Cooper revealed the alarmist nature of his ecological special, Planet in Peril, before the much-hailed program even aired. Momentarily pre-empted by coverage of Southern California's wildfires, Cooper used the interruption to claim that global warming is partially to blame for the disaster. "Fire, drought, deforestation," he intoned. "It's all connected."
Such inappropriate commentary persisted throughout the next four hours, leaving no question that the documentary's purpose was not to investigate key environmental issues but to engage in environmental tub-thumping.
Cooper neatly dispensed with the question of whether climate change is occurring and whether it is human-induced by stating: "Scientists say that [global warming] is happening because of what we're putting into the air." At no point does he mention that there are many highly credentialed scientists who say otherwise. Fellow host Dr. Sanjay Gupta's treatment of the subject of overpopulation is equally biased. "There simply aren't enough natural resources on this planet to support everyone," he reports as fact.
Of course, even if CNN were of a mind to offer a measured view of these subjects, the overstuffed focus of their production doesn't allow them time to. Taking an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, Planet in Peril pushes so many ecological buttons-chemical ingestion, endangered species poaching, pollution-that none is examined with any more depth than a music video.
However, the most troubling aspect of the documentary is that it never considers the human cost of the causes it champions. Cooper accurately reports that DDT was banned in most countries thanks to the efforts of environmental groups. But he doesn't note that millions of Africans lost their lives to malaria as a result when the disease-carrying mosquito population grew.
Similarly, Planet in Peril excoriates Madagascan farmers for clearing portions of the rainforest for rice paddies but doesn't note that if deforestation regulations were implemented, those farmers would be unable to provide food for their families.
That's not to say that there aren't legitimate debates about mankind's responsibility to the earth. But CNN has taken us a step backward in those debates, not forward.