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TV REVIEW : ‘Voyage’ to a Threatened Planet

“Life in the Balance,” an “Infinite Voyage” special airing at 8 tonight on Channels 28, 15 and 24 and at 8 p.m. Monday on Channel 11, opens with a strong dose of statistics detailing mankind’s impact on our fragile planet.

--Airborne pollutants released each year: 5 billion tons.

--Population expected in the year 2000: 6 billion.

--Rain forest destroyed every minute: 50 acres.

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Impressive statistics, all of them. Unfortunately, “Life in the Balance” never lets up, affecting a preachy tone that limits its impact.

And that’s too bad, because that approach by producer-writer Joe Seamans gets in the way of some very interesting material.

In segments on fragile ecosystems in Brazil, Peru, San Diego and Costa Rica, Seamans shows how technological advances are fragmenting the Earth.

“Life in the Balance” demonstrates how all of the Earth’s species are closely linked, explains how we are causing mass extinction of many of these species and shows how scientists are attempting to cope with the myriad problems. As one scientist puts it, “Man can be considered a human meteorite” in ecological terms.

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The program hammers home its point about man’s negative role in evolution through this ongoing process of mass extinction. Our rapacious species is clearly overshadowing the planet, destroying plants, insects, fish and mammals at an astounding rate, tipping the balance in who knows what direction. After all, no one knows which species will turn out to be the “key” species in the food chain.

Preachiness aside, “Life in the Balance” is, on balance, a worthy effort, as timely as today’s headlines about the Valdez oil spill. We stand at a unique spot in history: Mankind has recognized the problems and has the power to help stem this mass extinction. The question remains: Do we have the will?


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