18 June 2012

Wild Europe (BBC)

All across the continent are clues that help us to shed light on the deep past and Europe's dramatic creation. In Genesis, we witness the birth of mountains as tall as the Himalayas, coalfields transformed in to leafy swamps roamed by giant dragonflies and plesiosaurs roaming our once-tropical oceans. In this educational BBC documentary programme we see the raising of the Alps and the ripping open of the Atlantic as Europe is finally born.

Part 1: Genesis

Part 2:  Ice Ages

2.5 million years ago, a periodic shift in the Earth's orbit, coupled with a tilt in its axis, triggered a sudden change in climate and Europe was plunged into an ice age. The wintry iciness of today's Alps spread across northern Europe as ice sheets extended as far south as London, Amsterdam and Berlin. Conditions were ideal for cold-adapted animals, forerunners of musk oxen and reindeer. Woolly mammoth bones dredged from the bottom of the North Sea are evidence that this was once icy tundra. The warm interglacial periods attracted very different creatures: fossil hippos, rhinos, lions and hyenas have been unearthed in London. This thermal pulsing has occurred around twenty times, the last ice age ending 15,000 years ago.

Part 3: Taming The Wild

The third programme explores the growing influence of people on the land. After the last ice age, Europe's mild climate and virgin forests attracted human and animal immigrants, including moose, bear, deer and wild boar. The agreeable climate also attracted immigrant farmers from Mesopotamia to the eastern Mediterranean, and reliable food supplies encouraged permanent settlement. By 3000 BC, civilization had spread to western megalithic sites such as Stonehenge and Carnac. Bronze Age Europeans discovered the smelting process, leading to a period of conflict and conquest over valuable metal ores. The Roman Empire was born, and a massive road-building enterprise ensued, enabling a flow of trade, livestock, ideas and culture.

Part 4: A New Millenium

Europe is home to more than 700 million people, most of them city dwellers. Much of its wildlife has suffered as a result, but efforts are underway to protect and reintroduce some species.

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