“THE wise man built his house upon the permafrost.” Well, no longer. As we saw in the third and final Climate Change: Ade on the frontline (BBC2, Sunday), even in Svalbard, well north of the Arctic Circle, global warming means that the ground hitherto frozen solid is melting; houses slip, crack, break up, and whole sections of the town must be abandoned.
This is a front line for one aspect of the unfolding disaster, with a bitter twist: as the glaciers retreat and the immemorial depths of ice thin, the gas and oil beneath become more and more commercially accessible, diabolically offering the chance to make money by hastening the process of self-destruction.
The Paralympian TV presenter Ade Adepitan travelled the globe — conscious that inter-continental flights somewhat undermined a challenge to using fossil fuels — to see for himself how serious the problem really was, and what people were doing to fight against it. Arctic Sweden contrasts with the tropical Solomon Islands, where he started: here, rising sea-levels have engulfed homes, villages, and islands.
Oddly, the programmes coincided with BBC1’s similarly three-part Greta Thunberg: A year to change the world (Mondays 12, 19, and 26 April). Borrowing from musical theory, I found the two series like the contrasting first and second themes in sonata form: widely different in approach and tone, circling around the same material, ultimately harmonising in unison.
Thunberg was essentially sombre and serious, minor-key, conscious of the magnitude of the challenge that she accepts on her narrow shoulders, daring to be the child in the crowd who cries out that the Emperor’s new clothes are non-existent. It was a joy to see her briefly let her hair down, bopping away in total abandonment in a railway compartment on her way to yet another international conference.
We followed the year that she took out of school to preach her message, to galvanise her worldwide army of students, daring to speak truth to power. She examines her personal phenomenon: how has she become this spokesperson, her words the rallying cry that might just be listened to, a contemporary Joan of Arc?
Adepitan, contrariwise, was ebullient, major-key. While never minimising the overwhelming catastrophe, he sought every project and scientific development offering ways to turn the tide. In his moving refusal to let his disability define him, limit his life, he embodied the power of human determination to overcome tragedy.
The goddess Fortuna seduces and destroys in the latest series of The Syndicate (BBC1, Tuesdays). The lottery ticket shared by the likeable kids who work in a dog kennels scoops £27 million — but scoundrel Frank swindles them, absconding to Monte Carlo to lose it all on the tables. As they seek to recover their winnings, prospective riches encourage, in some, underlying generosity and solidarity, but, in others, degrading depths of selfish greed.