2022 / Netflix / Five episodes
During his time in office, Barack Obama protected more natural habitat than any president in history. His conservation ethos is on full display in Our Great National Parks, a Netflix docuseries he hosts. Through compelling stories and narration, the former president highlights the importance of preserving nature and, more importantly, the fundamental need to create systems that allow all beings to not only coexist, but also thrive.
In five episodes, viewers are taken around the globe to some of the most remarkable examples of protected land, including Chile’s Patagonia National Park, Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, California’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park. Stunning underwater and aerial footage—including never-before-filmed animal behavior—exemplifies the beauty and diversity that survive in these areas. Hippos swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, sandgrouse using their feathers to sponge up and transport water, and orangutans using tools to crack open fruit elicit a sense of wonder and remind us we are still learning about life on our planet.
Beyond providing refuge for countless endangered species, protected lands hold the potential for medical and scientific discoveries. A fungus that grows in the fur of rainforest sloths, for example, produces a chemical with the potential to fight certain cancers and antibiotic-resistant “superbug” pathogens. And while wildlands are key, enacting wildlife protections in built environments has given animals an opportunity to show us just how adaptable they can be. Monterey Bay harbors—formerly industrial and denuded of wildlife—now provide sanctuary to sea otter mothers who hide their newborns among the quiet docks while they hunt.
When the destruction of the natural world seems too vast to reverse, successful examples of government and community-led change show that there is still much we can do. Our Great National Parks is inspirational viewing, reminding us that national parks are “some of the last strongholds of wilderness and wildlife” and worth fighting for.