The first thing you see is a shiny white ovoid shape blasting out of the ocean with a dark spot in its center. It looks like an astronaut’s helmet, but only for a second. The helmet is actually a shark’s mouth, and the shape in the middle, a sleek wriggling seal. Or it was, anyway. As the shark continues its upward trajectory in majestic slow motion, and appears to swing its tail fin around, mid-air, in seeming defiance of physics, that seal is now just protein, sludge, and bone splinters. Although it feels like you’ve been watching this maritime massacre for at least a few minutes, David Attenborrough announces in urgent Britishese, “The strike of a Great White shark lasts a mere second.” Holy fucking shit. It is at this point you high-five the nearest person and ask them to pass the dutchie on the lefthand side.
That mesmerizing Great White attack is probably the most infamous moment from the colossal hit nature documentary, Planet Earth. Released in 2006, with the then-revolutionary eye-popping clarity of high-def, after five years in the making, the show’s 11 episodes have aired in 130 countries and captivated millions. Many of those people, of course, were righteously toasted.
Nature movies have a curious reputation as ideal sonic wallpaper for couchside weed cafes. Light up, lean back, and let the splendiferous wonders of the world wash over you. Among aficionados, though, Planet Earth is the granddaddy of them all. Now that the long-awaited follow-up, Planet Earth II, is airing on BBC America, Co.Create rounded up some weed experts to find out why movies about the blue planet go so well with the green stuff.
“Cannabis enhances both communing with nature and watching videos, so naturally Planet Earth and similar programs appeal to those under the herbal influence,” says David Bienenstock, an editor at High Times and author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High.
“There’s the mellow vibration of experiencing—through the screen, at least—some of the most stunning and remote environments on the planet, the gripping drama and goofy humor of the animal kingdom, and a chance to learn about our true home—Earth—which is a pretty awe-striking and cosmic thing to contemplate in depth.”
Indeed, partaking in this ancient natural herb—assisted, of course, by modern botany—gives the viewer a sense of connection with our ancestors, our current fur- or scale-covered neighbors, and quite possibly our landlord.
“There’s something very spiritual about watching nature videos,” says Tommy Chong, the OG Kush of celebrity potheads, whose cannabis and lifestyle brand, Chong’s Choice, recently partnered up with Défoncé Chocolatier to make tasty edibles.
“There’s so much about life itself that’s in nature and the same struggles that the insects go through we can relate to as humans,” Chong says. “These things unfold right in front of your eyes. Like, a fruit fly lives for one day and then on the other hand, you might see a turtle that lives to be 100 years old. So there’s a lot of life lessons.”
It’s hard to walk away from an episode of Planet Earth without at least one juicy nug of information to share at your next dinner party… if you can remember it afterward.
“One thing I watched that was incredible was the pygmies in the Congo,” Chong says. “The most amazing thing was they sing and some people think that’s where the blues originated from. There’s a bird that has a song that uses a flat fifth, which is the blues note, and the pygmies would sing using that flat fifth. Stuff like that blows my mind.”
Despite how heavy things can get in the world of nature, though, some people like these kinds of shows because they’re mostly feather-light, non-narrative tours of underexamined environmental beauty.
“There isn’t a complicated plot or dialogue to follow when you’re watching a bird do a complicated mating ritual, as opposed to remembering how Walter White and Jesse Pinkman wound up in their current predicament. That works for people who are really baked,” says Jake Browne, pot critic for The Denver Post. “I like to watch Planet Earth when I’m not stoned too, but cannabis is the amplifier that makes them more interesting. It’s the 4k high definition footage compared to the home movies your dad used to shoot.”
While the simple elegance of the visuals is enough of a brain-tickle, Browne also suggests occasionally jettisoning the narration from David Attenborough, despite how incisive and calming it is.
“Sometimes, it’s best to mute the TV and put on an album instead, preferably one with few lyrics,” he says. “Guessing what’s happening on screen can be more fun and occasionally, the action on screen will sync up in a way that you couldn’t recreate if you tried.”
While two of Co.Create’s panel of experts made it a point to mention that they did not require marijuana to enjoy the pleasures of nature videos (Chong did not make such a distinction), they offered some tips on the best THC-soaked methods to consume them.
David Bienenstock: Seek out a nice mild low-dose edibles buzz.
Tommy Chong: Stick with sativa, because indica will make you lethargic. But sativa is an upper.
Jake Browne: Any heavy indica is a great choice; you want a strong body buzz without a lot of the energy or anxiety that a sativa can cause as a baby iguana tries to escape a horde of snakes. A 10mg edible about 45 minutes before watching is also a great choice, as you’ll sink into the couch and focus.
David Bienenstock: Pour yourself a bowl of Peanut Butter Puffins with chocolate hemp milk
Tommy Chong: Roasted almonds and 85% chocolate is my go-to stoned snack.
Jake Browne: Fresh popcorn with a bag of Reese’s Pieces added immediately. It’s a mess, but you won’t be looking at your hands.