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The Green Life: Nature's Nuclear Fallout: the Beasts that Survive

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July 13, 2011

Nature's Nuclear Fallout: the Beasts that Survive

What can possibly live in a nuclear fallout zone? Nature, the PBS television show, celebrates its remarkable achievement of making it to 30 seasons by bringing to viewers the story of another survivor: the wolves of Chernobyl. "Radioactive Wolves" will follow the creatures that thrive in the Ukrainian city's ruins 25 years after its nuclear reactor's explosions.

In its 29 years, the show has garnered 600 hundred different awards—including 10 Emmys and recognition from the Sierra Club. During those years Nature has featured at least 67 species of beast, but more and more often the episodes start with the premise of the influence of one in particular: man.

Fred Kaufman, Executive Producer of Nature, explains.

“Whether it is a skunk or a raccoon, urban wildlife is thoroughly fascinating. These animals have come to rely on us and live with us: therefore a level of consciousness and intelligence is developing that is pretty extraordinary.

We’re at that point now where we feel like Nature’s covered just about everything. So we look at other new technological advances that allow us to view behavior in a completely eye-opening way.

I think that Nature pioneered the approach that wasn’t as sensationalized as what had come before. At the time Nature came out, natural history was the really big, high profile, big ticket animals like sharks and predators. When we were designing a weekly series we couldn’t provide an ongoing menu of that. We began to explore places and subject matter like the Galapagos that people hadn’t really heard about. We showed that we could do more detailed study of natural history, maybe more sophisticated, with more information, and more esoteric subject matter, and we made that a daily staple.

I don’t think anybody expects thirty years on television, but I’m not surprised. I think the public-television viewer is very bonded to Nature. It’s not so much entertainment—I think they see something rich, and rewarding, and worthy in Nature."

As for what's next for Nature, Kaufman says he hopes for work in 3D — "it’s perfect for wildlife exploration.”

"Radioactive Wolves" will premier on Wednesday, October 19th on PBS. Nature’s website currently hosts 57 full, previously aired episodes.

--Juliana Hanle

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