The underlying theme uniting each episode of Zac Efron’s Netflix Original docuseries, Down to Earth, is one of harmony. As a traveller and presenter, his mission is to cultivate a strong synchronisation between his own health and wellbeing, and that of the planet itself – to strengthen his personal relationship with Earth through an increased understanding of the ways in which it functions, and how those basic functions can fulfil his own needs.
Whether that means drawing on the curative powers of a volcanic lagoon in the shadow of a renewable energy station powering an entire island, or waiting for bread to bake while it is buried within the sand, each new intrigue featured within this series represents its own small celebration of the natural world, and the ways in which it supports those who live upon it.
For much of the series, Efron’s focus, both as a tourist and as a director, is placed squarely on the present. While many series that focus on sustainability and the earth’s recovery turn our gaze on the future – both in terms of what must be done, and what will happen if we fail to do it – Down to Earth is more interested in exploring the different ways in which these destinations have already struck a profound balance with the planet.
A Fresh Perspective
All too often, it feels as though exploring the world from a sustainability standpoint means exploring the horrors we have already wrought upon the planet. Of course, this is a necessary evil; impressing upon viewers the severity of the situation calls for drastic measures, and drastic measures are rarely congruent with an upbeat narrative. We are all more aware than ever before of the ways in which our planet is declining and, in some ways, that counts against us when the time comes to draw attention back onto the issue.
What is congruent with a more upbeat narrative, however, is a more traditional sense of wanderlust and appreciation for both the world, and its inhabitants. In a way, Efron splices together the conventional travel-docuseries format, and the climate change documentaries pioneered by Sir David Attenborough and, more recently, Woody Harrelson.
The result is something entirely new: a docuseries that hints at the future of travel and exploration, without dwelling on years and decades that have yet to come. By giving context to things that, to many of us, remain abstract, Efron is paving the way for a new genre within the world of travel documentaries.
‘Now’, Rather Than ‘Then’
Efron’s world tour takes him to a wide array of different microcosms operating within the realm of sustainability – from Iceland, which has now divorced itself from fossil fuels altogether, and runs solely off of renewable energy sources which tap into its unique natural phenomena, to Puerto Rico, where the disaster of Hurricane Maria prompted the country to embrace solar panels.
His exploration feeds into a much larger notion – one of embracing those technologies and means which best support the natural ecosystem around us. While Iceland might be able to make use of the unique volcanic activity simmering just below the ground, other parts of the world can, in the same way, embrace technologies that synergise with the natural ebb and flow of environment. From choosing to power your home via solar systems to focusing on seasonable crops and produce, Efron proves that part of the joy of life lies in embracing one’s immediate surroundings.
Working to reduce our carbon footprint on a global scale needn’t diminish our ability to enjoy life. Rather, Efron offers his viewers a long list of perks that occur as a direct result of a more harmonious relationship with nature, rather than a continued struggle against it.
Zac Efron’s documentary, Down to Earth, is currently available on Netflix UK. It offers an excellent opportunity for viewers to experience the future of the travel docuseries, by exploring the sustainability movement’s impact on countries across the globe, and ensuring that we are all able to clearly envisage a future in which human life and the planet itself are able to exist in a reciprocal relationship, rather than at loggerheads. It is a great, upbeat series with which to usher in a new year, and we would recommend it to anyone growing impatient for progress.