Last Night's Television: This World: Can Obama Save the Planet? BBC2<br/>Inside Sport: Mind Games &ndash; Depression in Sport, BBC1<br/>Terror Attack: Mumbai, More4

Back in the hot seat
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Can Obama Save the Planet?, Justin Rowlatt's film for the This World strand, was essentially about political inertia. Is it possible to accelerate a nation as massive as the United States into action over climate control, particularly when very powerful lobby groups are hauling on the handbrake with all the force they can muster?

But it also contained a vividly repulsive demonstration of the physical principle of inertia, one which I'm happy to tell you has already been uploaded to YouTube (you can find it by searching Pig Food Ecological Disaster!). Rowlatt had gone to visit a Las Vegas pig farmer who feeds his stock on the leftover waste from casino buffets, confident that he would find there a spectacular image of American excess.

The pig farmer, who surely knew more than he was letting on, let Rowlatt drive the processed slurry the short distance to the feeding troughs, a journey that offered no challenges until it came time to pull-up, at which point Rowlatt discovered the messy way that brakes are connected to a vehicle and not to its load. It was like watching a dump truck projectile vomit, and a startling amount of the steaming slop appeared to shoot straight through the window into Rowlatt's lap. I don't think he's going to have any trouble getting his dry-cleaning expenses cleared.

That scene wasn't untypical of a knowingly picaresque programme, which began with Rowlatt ice-fishing on a Michigan lake (with an ordinary Joe who believes in global warming) and ended with him in Washington, pinning down a coal lobbyist over a fraudulent letter-writing campaign that had helped persuade Congress to vote down a Carbon Cap-and-Trade Bill. On the way, he'd met Daryl Hannah on a train (an unordinary Jill who also believes in global warming) and been subjected to a kind of group- hate exercise as the guest of a Virginia shock jock (who, along with all of his listeners, believes that global warming is a fantasy expressly designed to usher in the Soviet States of America). It was broadly a depressing account of a nation profoundly conservative in every sense but the ecological one – large numbers of its citizens committed to the view that self-restraint is inherently un-American, and a lot more finding it hard to imagine how they might consume less.

There were some intriguing little shafts of light, though. In Texas, Rowlatt visited the world's largest wind farm, a robustly yee-haw enterprise that had been partly encouraged into being by policies passed by George W Bush. And in California, he discovered a state far in advance of many countries in terms of renewable energy sources and management of consumption. By the end, it was clear that the sclerosis of Washington politics, arteries clogged by lobbying millions and local interests, was unlikely to deliver radical action. But it didn't seem inconceivable that the American people may yet bypass their own democracy and take action themselves.

Mind Games: Depression in Sport, an Inside Sport special, hovered between presenting its subjects as representative types and special cases. On one hand, the argument went, people like Marcus Trescothick and Frank Bruno were human just like you and me, and their sporting fame merely brought into the light of day a problem more often endured in the shadows. Their prowess and skill hadn't exempted them from the law of averages when it came to mental illness.

On the other hand, there were contributors here – including some of the sportsmen themselves – who seemed to argue that participation in top-level sport could only exacerbate a vulnerability to breakdown. In other words, it wasn't that they had fallen ill despite being champions but possibly because they were champions. Wherever the exact truth lies, it was an intriguing and useful programme, most of all, perhaps, in tackling the popular misconception that because the symptoms are the wrong kind of mental state, the disorder might be susceptible to the right kind of mental state. Snap out of It therapy simply doesn't work, and the sight of various sporting heroes calmly explaining why may well persuade less well-known sufferers from seeking out more effective treatments.

Terror Attack: Mumbai couldn't really add a lot to Dispatches' excellent recent documentary about the same event, though its survivor accounts were completely gripping. If there was a distinctive aspect to it it was the concentration on technology. Mobile phones and BlackBerrys became "... the key to surviving Mumbai", the voiceover claimed at one point.

Given that the terrorists actually discovered the hiding place of a large group of guests after one of them gave it away during a mobile-phone interview that claim seemed debatable, to put it mildly. But that the devices were implicated in the torment was undeniable. "I'm completely safe on the 19th floor," one woman reassured her daughter in Canada. The next thing her daughter heard on the live coverage was that that was where the terrorists had last been seen.