The premiere of TBS honcho Ted Turner’s latest effort, Network Earth, has one very interesting report, from Panama. There, we are told, the 1989 U.S. invasion to oust Gen. Manuel Noriega and an economic embargo have led to the destruction of tropical forests — starving, unemployed Panamanians are slashing and burning the forests to create farmland. The rest of Network Earth, though, is pretty flimsy, a kind of Eco-styles of the Comparatively Rich and Famous.
This magazine-style series also offers ecological shopping tips (buy stuff in cardboard or glass containers, not plastic). There’s a story about some citizens who patrol the waters of San Francisco Bay looking for water polluters — they’ve found a few. We’re shown the phone numbers of an ecology computer network that we can, as host George Lawes says, ”log onto right now.” The rock group R.E.M. is interviewed — gee, they like Greenpeace. In between, Lawes tosses in tidbits such as ”While I’m talking, Americans have recycled over 35 tons of waste paper.” And boy, are their arms tired.
All of this is earnest, superficial, and dull. One upcoming show is scheduled to include an investigation into ”racism and pollution” — poor blacks in rural Louisiana who have had most of their neighborhood turned into a toxic dump. That sounds promising.
On the other hand, the show is also working on a less-promising-sounding story about an architect who recycles tires by building houses out of them. By mixing enterprising reporting with fluff, Network Earth does itself a disservice. C