How to Grow a Planet

Wednesday 22nd February

And yet again the BBC has produced another incredible natural history series, this time about the evolution of the planet itself, ‘How to Grow a Planet’  It is a remarkable discovery of how the earth we know became just that, and the changes it went through to get there.  Most of the changes were driven by plants, not animals.  And the changes in animals came about largely through changes in plant life too.  We take plants so much for granted that we assume they must have always been here, and they have been here far longer than the animals, but they too have evolved over the ages from ferns to trees to flowers to grasses, and their evolution has triggered massive changes in the planet.  The presenter is Iain Stewart, a Scottish professor who has that sort of enthusiasm and authority which captivates and educates at the same time.  His Scottish brogue is rather sexy too.  The photography is beautiful, as you would expect from the BBC, but it brings together so much; geology, astrophysics, chemistry and biology to enlighten us.  The final surprise was how a single genetic mutation in a wild wheat plant meant that mankind for the first time started to farm and discovered how to make bread and settled in established communities, the end of the few million years of being hunter gatherers.   Amazingly this was only twelve thousand years ago.  And everything that we humans have achieved since then stems from that single plant mutation.  Makes you wonder if that hadn’t happened how we might have evolved, or not.  It actually makes Frozen Planet seem a bit boring.  I wish it had lasted longer and cannot wait for it to be repeated.