Fabulously ornate cakes and a trip to a natural paradise are Benjie’s top TV picks for this week. Plus, the best of the rest of the week on TV.
Escape to Costa Rica, Sunday 30th April, 7pm, Channel 4
Ours is a troubled world. Global warming, social divisions, extremism, man’s inhumanity to man, and The Only Way Is Essex. It would be easy to abandon hope for this tiny blue marble of ours. Except that, tucked away in a remote corner of Central America, something extraordinary is happening.
Costa Rica – impoverished, unheralded, modest little Costa Rica – is only years away from becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country. And you know what else? It consistently comes top of the Global Happiness Index (and they don’t have TOWIE – coincidence?)
In this visually gorgeous three-part series, scientist, writer and traveller Gaia Vince goes to Costa Rica to find out how it might be setting the template by which we could all live in the future. Now, I know what you’re thinking: No amount of visual gorgeousness can compensate for hours upon end of being lectured about the importance of sustainable farming and green electricity. But thankfully this is far more than an exercise in worthy, slightly depressing eco-telly.
Thanks to a mixture of Vince’s enthusiastic charisma and Costa Rica’s indisputable loveliness, this is actually a rather joyous experience. It helps that Vince has taken her family with her for the trip (including two very cute toddlers) and that she embarks on some remarkable experiences. Lest you think that she’s got a cushy number – a lengthy holiday in the Caribbean with her family – there is the small matter of crocodile hunting.
This being Costa Rica, the crocodiles aren’t hunted to turn into particularly expensive designer handbags to be carried by women with fur coats and Chihuahuas. They’re hunted to move them to somewhere else, to allow for sustainable fish-farming. But nobody has told the crocodiles, who still seem a tad resistant to the idea. Vince joins a croc-catching team. It’s not a job I’d fancy. The method of catching these vast, prehistoric carnivores is to wade, waist-deep, along the shallow, murky lake they inhabit, until you basically walk into one. Yep. Vince is told that if she feels a crocodile against her legs, she has to stand still and raise her hand. What in the name of all things human would make you want to stand still if you felt a croc against your legs?
Vince’s adventures see her conducting experiments way, way up in the rainforest canopy, as well as overnighting in a tree-house with a difference in the cloud-forest, and meeting some frankly absurdly cuddly orphaned sloths. Almost as cuddly is the Costa Rican president, who she gets to interview about the country’s remarkable direction.
This, then, is TV that is both eye-opening and entertaining, and there are aspects of life in Costa Rica from which we could all learn. That said, it can’t work as a universal template. You’re never going to get a sustainable eco-tourism programme in Leicester, and hydro-electric power is unlikely to be of much benefit in Mali. But it’s a pointer in the right direction, and heaven knows, we could use it.