David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
Attenborough takes us from Pripyat, the city where the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant workers, support crew, city personnel, and their families lived. Today, it is abandoned, with trees, bushes, and animals taking over the massive squares and formerly grand boulevards deserted area after the nuclear disaster.
Attenborough gives an overview of his life. Interspersed with footage of his career and of a wide variety of ecosystems, he narrates key moments in his career and indicators of how the planet has changed over his lifetime. As a child, Attenborough enjoyed studying fossils. His documentary career began in the 1950s when he began working for the BBC. He visited places such as the African Serengeti, in which native animals require vast areas of land to maintain grazing patterns. Over time, he noticed a decline in wildlife when searching for fish or orangutans in Borneo or other animals which he was looking for as part of his documentaries.
Areas of the Arctic or Antarctic were different from what the filming crew expected due to ice caps melting. The causes are anthropogenic climate change and biodiversity loss pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction event over a period of centuries rather than the hundreds of millennia that built up to previous mass extinctions.
Attenborough describes the film as his “witness statement” and gives an impression of what could happen to the planet over the course of a lifetime beginning in 2020 and lasting as long as his own if human activity continues unchanged. The Amazon rainforest could degrade into a savanna; the Arctic could lose all ice during summer; coral reefs could die; soil overuse could cause food crises. These irreversible events would cause a mass extinction and exacerbate climate change further.
“…bringing countries out of poverty, providing universal healthcare, and improving girls’ education would make the growing human population stabilize sooner…”
However, Attenborough describes actions that could prevent these effects and combat climate change and biodiversity loss. He asserts that the solution has been “staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we’ve removed.” He proposes re-wilding; moreover, he says that bringing countries out of poverty, providing universal healthcare, and improving girls’ education would make the growing human population stabilize sooner and at a lower level.
Sir David met with President Obama in 2015. They discussed the challenge of tackling climate change
Renewable energy such as solar, wind, water, and geothermal could sustainably power all human energy usage. Protecting a third of coastal areas from fishing could allow fish populations to thrive and the remaining area would be sufficient for human consumption. Humans changing their diet to eliminate or reduce meat in favor of plant-based foods could allow land to be used far more efficiently. Attenborough cites government intervention in Costa Rica causing deforestation to reverse, Palau’s fishing regulations, and improved use of land in the Netherlands as good examples.
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