'Planet in Peril': Anderson Cooper Wears Too Much Make-Up

From that headline alone you can see part one of CNN's ballyhooed "Planet in Peril" program was a mixed bag. More than an hour of the first night focused on the extinction of rare species as a preface to global disaster. Forty-five minutes into the program, I began to envy some of the creatures and wondered what poacher would put me out of my misery and save me from a "planet under assault." The photography was good, not Discovery Channel quality, but above average and the locales were exotic. But the first hour moved with almost glacial tedium. Only when hour two got going did it get more interesting - exploring Chinese pollution and Anderson Cooper's bloodstream. The special, called by the network "the story the world can't afford to ignore," was led by Cooper, and also featured Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin. As the program went on, it got more interesting. Gupta whipped out typical Malthusian claims of global overpopulation saying there simply aren't enough natural resources to support everyone. A couple highlights:

  • Gupta discovering what communist China is really like as he tried to investigate pollution. Everywhere he went, he encountered government control and was interrogated by police for simply stopping by a polluted river. When he tried to interview a farmer in a rice paddy, the man got a call on his cell phone telling him what to say.
  • The program focused on trying to save species in poor places like Madagascar by protecting forests, but ignored the reality that development brings jobs to people who survive whole families on a dollar a day. It didn't offer solutions for humans, just animals.
  • While Cooper admitted that reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park was opposed by ranchers who feared the threat, he went on to say that it was one "of the greatest conservation success stories." He didn't follow up with any rancher opinions on that one. Doubtless the ranchers disagree a tad.
  • Cooper also had his blood tested for various heavy metals and discovered that he was above the 95th percentile in Phthalates - "the stuff found in cosmetics like the make-up I put on before going in front of the cameras," he told viewers. As the doctor who did the test said, "You probably put a lot of make-up on a lot of the time."

From endangered species to rising seas, this was CNN's "tale of the Earth's trouble." Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month, you have seen or heard one of CNN's many advertisements for the program. The four major ‘perils' that the two-night, four-hour long documentary will cover are species loss, deforestation or habitat loss, overpopulation and global warming. Advertisements have shown up all over the country, from DrudgeReport.com to NPR News. CNN even put six-foot square poster in each copy of October 16's USA Today.  -- Genevieve Ebel contributed to this post.