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Science
AN ANIMAL APART
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Monday 21:00-21:30
What is our place in the natural world? How much are we humans part of nature and how much an animal apart? Wildlife film maker and writer, Brian Leith, has wondered about this during his many years of travel in the natural world, and in this series he looks for an answer.
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Listen to 15 April
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BRIAN LEITH
Brian Leith
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Monday 15 April 2002
Kalahari Desert

Programme 1
The Tree of Knowledge:
Living as part of nature


The hunter gatherer lifestyle of the Kalahari Bushmen epitomises what many consider to be the closest relationship with nature that humans can have. Laurens van der Post made the Bushmen famous in his book the Lost World of the Kalahari in which he depicted them as living in some idyllic Eden. He even ate with them from a tree he called the tree of knowledge.

Brian Leith starts his exploration of the human relationship with nature with the Bushmen - the San people - at the Tsodilo Hills. But he finds no Eden. The skills of tracking animals and gathering plants do still exist amongst some of the people, but to many they are lost, replaced by dependency on tourist trinkets, handouts, and alcohol. The hunter, Nxunta, that Brian goes tracking with has only an old spear. What's more, if he kills an animal without a licence he stands to be imprisoned. The glossy image of a Bushman poised with bow and arrow is an image of the past. And in the time that Brian spends with Nxunta it becomes clear that even the traditional San life of his grandparents was a matter of harsh reality and a struggle to survive, rather than the spiritual idyll depicted by van der Post.

So why have we been so willing to believe the idyllic myths about people and nature? They do no justice to people like the San, and they load our views of Nature with dangerous false expectations.
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THIS SERIES
1: The Tree of Knowledge
2: The Forest with Two Faces
3: Back to Nature
4: Return to Eden
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