When thinking about adventurers and explorers of our time, there was no one who deserved to be top of our list more than David Attenborough.
Best known for his writing and presenting, David was educating us all about changes on our planet long before it became the crisis that we are currently facing. Thought to be one of the most well- travelled people on the planet, Attenborough covered 256,000 miles for The Life Of Birds Documentary, that's more than ten times around the globe!
Image Credit - BBC
David’s adventures as a child began locally in old ironworks and quarries, he would search for buried treasure as many young children would do. He found ammonites and other fossils, which sparked the desire to learn more about what was known then as natural history.
Image Credit - PA Images
His career began in 1937, when the world's population was 2.3 billion, the remaining wilderness was 66% with a carbon atmosphere 280 parts per million. When he got his first job in TV, he didn’t even own one, like many others at that time. Global air travel was just beginning and he was one of the first to experience the opportunity of exploring areas of the globe previously unexplored. In A Life Of Our Planet, his witness statement film, recently released on Netflix, David talks about the vast wilderness back then, the clean sparkling seas, immense grasslands and being able to fly for ours over untouched land.
He describes this time as the best time of his life, indeed of many peoples lives. The war was over, technology was helping us progress, bringing with us everything we had ever dreamed of. This of course was before anyone was ever aware of the problems could change with it. In 1971, David set out to find a previously un-contacted tribe in New Guinea. They lived in small numbers, rarely ate meat, worked with their traditional technology and lived sustainably in a lifestyle that could continue effectively forever.
Life on Earth was created in 39 countries, filming 650 species and covered 1.5 million miles. Way before Bear Grylls, Attenborough was sleeping in a camel carcass and wearing loin cloths in the Solomon Islands, to join with local tradition and survive on his adventures to previously unexplored areas. Already it was becoming noticeable that some animals were becoming harder to find and this was in the late seventies. Poachers were killing a dozen gorillas, just to get one baby. Things were starting to go wrong. David became aware that we were responsible for this, a stark reality and with whale slaughtering by huge industrial ships, it was near enough impossible to find blue whales.
Image Credit - BBC
Whole habitats were soon to disappear, he witnessed 50% of the Borneo rainforest gone forever. A habitat with animals serving a critical role to play in the world and tree diversity. The deforestation of Borneo has reduced the population of orangutans by two thirds since the 1950’s, the damage is accumulating so badly that the whole ecosystem is now affected.
David is an explorer who pushes boundaries, he visited places no-one had ever been to. He showed us all the deep blue sea that we may never have seen before several fish became extinct due to his show, The Blue Planet. In 2015, he took part in the deepest ever dive on the Great Barrier Reef, there they saw the coral turning white, which they realised was the reef turning into wasteland, the coral had died off due to bleaching caused by warming of the sea. The earth was beginning to lose it’s way. David never started his documentaries to discuss conservation but simply because he loved the natural world and wanted to share it with as many people as possible. The speed of change has been so great, he felt that it was no longer simply okay to report about the animals and habitats but to place emphasis on the disaster that is awaiting us if we do not make change.
Image Credit - BBC
The Life Of Our Planet is a tough watch, for anyone. Indeed, my ten year old son began to cry at the end, worried that it is all too late, upset about things that he is not responsible for but there is some hope if we act now and Sir David wants us all to sit up and listen. 2020 and the world's population is now 7.8 billion, compared to 2.3 billion back in 1937, the remaining wilderness is only 35% and carbon in the atmosphere is now 415 parts per millions, as opposed to 280 parts in 1937. Now is the time to take action.
What can we do? To put it simply, we need to re-wild the world. We need to raise the standard of living around the world without increasing our impact on the world. We can use our wind, water and geothermal energy rather than fossil fuels. Morocco has already started to do this by building the world's biggest solar energy farm, allowing them to generate 40% of their own energy. We owe it to Sir David Attenborough to watch his witness statement, he has taken us to places we never would have been to, shown us species undiscovered and insanely beautiful to look at. The ultimate explorer, is still working hard at the age of 92, wanting to create a better world for the next generation. This film ends with hopeful messages, and action points we can use going forward. Go and watch it, our world needs you to.