Picks and Pans Review: A Vanishing Wilderness
Meryl Streep narrates a World of Audubon special that displays a pointed ecological stance. It examines the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the extreme northeast corner of Alaska, where each spring as many as 180,000 caribou migrate.
You'll learn some things, such as the fact that 75 percent of the female caribou give birth within the same four-day period. (Known as swamping, the multiple births are an ingenious survival mechanism that evolved to confound predators.) Mostly, however, you're here to boo and hiss at the petroleum industry, which wants to develop the pristine Coastal Plain for its oil and natural gas resources.
The beautiful scenery, the noble animals, the gentle music and Streep's soothing voice all promote a sense of serenity that is meant to clash harshly with the shots of the refineries at Prudhoe Bay and of the Valdez oil spill. You know you're being manipulated, but the program presents a picture of wilderness that seems well worth preserving.