February 3, 2015 — Humans have been “framed out of the picture” when it comes to documenting nature, says Conservation International executive vice president and senior scientist M. Sanjayan in the opening of a new series, “EARTH A New Wild,” which premiers Feb. 4 on PBS. Sanjayan and producer David Allen — “probably the finest natural history filmmaker out there today,” according to Sanjayan — didn’t want to make another documentary that showed “pristine” nature with all the humans removed. Instead, they wanted to show how humans rely on nature and how, increasingly, nature relies on humans. “We don’t want to pretend that this is some petri dish in some remote, isolated planet,” Sanjayan says.
In the five-part series, Sanjayan travels the world to uncover stories in which humans are as much a part of nature as anything around them. From the Waorani people in the Amazon to Allan Savory’s ranch in Zimbabwe to a panda rewilding effort in China and more, Sanjayan finds examples that made him question many of his assumptions as a conservation scientist. In fact, he says, “I was surprised at virtually every story we did on the show.”
Ensia recently caught up with Sanjayan by phone to discuss “EARTH A New Wild,” and his changing views of conservation.