Sir David Attenborough needs no introduction. In his nineties Attenborough is still very active, definitely the most active ever regarding attempts to save our beautiful planet in these dark, uncertain times of climate change, plastic pollution and political instability. His most recent films and TV series are much more than visual masterpieces made to entertain nature lovers. They carry wise and clear messages that must be heard and acknowledged by everyone. If you have not watched all of them yet, I encourage you to do so.
Mr. Attenborough through over 70 years of career was loved and respected by many generations. In the XXI century due to his activism, the growing amount and availability of streaming services and presence of social media, he has received the biggest ever worldwide attention. Another crucial factor was the development of filming techniques: with 4K HD quality, ultra sensitive night cameras and high flying drones it seems there are no impossible things regarding capturing wildlife. Sir David evidently took advantage of all of that in the best possible way.
War With Plastic Pollution
In 2018 in the final episode of “Blue Planet II” Sir David Attenborough focused on what destruction plastic does with our oceans, marine life and eventually all of us. Even back then it was not a news for scientists or environmentalists, nor the first film on this subject. “A Plastic Ocean” well documented this problem in 2012, but failed to get worldwide audience and significant public attention. Fortunately, the heart-breaking images from “Blue Planet II” proving the devastating impact of plastic have met with immediate and effective reaction.
According to research published in Rapid Transition and many more sources, 88% of viewers decided to change their behaviour regarding plastic, 60% of them started using reusable water bottles. All kinds of media, including social media, covered and discussed the problem. Politicians under pressure started taking it seriously, too. And then businesses, small and big. Rapid Transition wrote on their website:
The “Plastic Pact” campaign saw companies signing up to pledge that by 2025 all their plastic packaging will be able to be reused, recycled or composted (…) In March 2019, 170 countries pledged to “significantly reduce” the use of plastics by 2030 at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.
Change is driven often by our emotions rather than awareness of facts: people care deeply about their personal contribution to environmental destruction when they directly see and appreciate how it impacts individual creatures.
For me it means also that people in general do not necessarily listen to scientists shouting about the end of the world, but would act after hearing the warm and calming voice of Sir David Attenborough, showing for example a baby albatros struggling with a piece of plastic. That is the power of his authority.
“Blue Planet II” apparently started a plastic revolution, which may be too slow and too late, but I believe it will eventually be won. The world once united to fight and defeat the ozone whole – noticed Attenborough. I hope it will happen again with plastic pollution. Even if due to global Covid-19 pandemic we took a step back producing more plastic packages and a single-use products than before.
War With Climate Change
It is obvious that there is even a bigger problem ahead of us than plastic pollution; a rapid climate change caused by global warming, which is sadly caused by all of us. Therefore, after a big success that “Blue Planet II” had with war with plastic, Mr Attenborough focused on raising awareness of climate crisis.
In 2019 Sir David came back with “Our Planet”. This 8-episode mini-series is focusing on diversity of life from frozen worlds and jungles to desserts, waters and forests. Once again we are able to watch marvellous footage of amazing animals, big and small. It is unbelievable, but the cinematography, score and action scenes are better here than in many Hollywood movies!
But this time Sir Attenborough was also explaining which of these animals are in danger of extinction, which of these worlds may be soon gone and how we need to act to prevent it. The episode that shows Chernobyl is particularly interesting, because it clearly proves that if we fail and disappear from the surface of Earth, nature will evidently survive, take over and rule the planet without us.
Yet another stunning, beautifully made series “Seven Worlds One Planet” premiered the same year. Realizing that filmmakers usually need a few years of filming and record thousands of hours of material, I sometimes wonder how many different films or series they can still make from it! And I’m pretty sure Sir David Attenborough will collaborate with them to present it to the world as long as he lives.
Anyways, in “Seven Worlds One Planet” we watch life on all seven continents, each with different climate, terrain and their own unique animals. Similarly to “Our Planet” we cannot only admire the beauty of nature, but on many occasions we are informed about the threats that all these continents face and the huge challenges that wildlife meet these days.
Those two series, however, were only a kind of introduction to “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet”, his most personal film by now. It is entirely about climate change and the dead end where humanity is headed. It displays the most serious problems such as using fossil fuels, deforestation, excessive CO2 emissions to name a few. Also, it finds simple solutions to fix all of them.
I would describe “A Life On Our Planet” as a beg for help from a very wise man. The author himself called it as his testament for the mankind. Words he wants to leave, that the whole world has to listen right now. It is moving, sad and touching. Yet, it is hopeful, inspirational and powerful, too. I believe that Sir David Attenborough’s voice is loud enough to be heard, because it simply cannot be louder.
A Final Warning From Scientists About Climate Change
In early 2021 premiered yet another superb, 5-episode series “A Perfect Planet”. First four episodes display the paramount influence that volcanos, sun light, weather and ocean’s currents have on life on the globe. The final episode titled “Humans” is entirely about the impact that we have on Earth and other species. Long story short: first four episodes document how it is possible that life exists on Earth and the last one shows how reckless humans destroy it.
Sir David is backed here by three scientists and their message is clear and consistent. Humans dominated our planet on every possible level and it seems that we are the worst thing that happened to Earth. If we do not change our course of actions immediately, we will bring most of life, including ours, to extinction. Now we are going towards a point where turning back is no more. Let’s think about future generations before it is too late, or they will most likely curse us.
A Positive Message From Sir David Attenborough
What I find special about “David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet” and “A Perfect Planet” is a fact that after all they contain a positive message. The author does not terrify or discipline his viewers. He instead persuades us from a personal perspective and through substantive arguments. He provides solutions and some hope. There is indeed a hope that these documentaries will do for climate change what “Blue Planet II” has done for plastic pollution.
By giving several examples, Sir David Attenborough proves that it is possible and has already started. Do you know that 15% of oceans is now protected by international law? Have you ever heard about projects made to recover Amazon forest in Brazil? Or projects to clean the oceans worldwide? Moroccan initiative to gain electricity completely from solar energy, even at night? Have you seen voluntaries in the US saving hundreds of tortoises? African organisations saving and taking care of orphan elephants? Asian ecologist helping wildlife to survive? Have you read about eco-friendly, modern cities protecting animals and trees?
Unfortunately mainstream media rarely cover that kind of heart-warming stories. These stories seems not to be attractive enough, and hey, bad news are still the best selling news! Therefore even when popular TV stations, newspapers and websites cover climate change, then the most attractive topics for them are usually related to catastrophic events, pollution or death.
Nevertheless we do have many everyday heroes in the world who do an amazing job to save our planet. They do not expect a reward or global recognition, they just need followers. Sir David Attenborough is the hero with the loudest voice, who keeps telling us about all of that. Even in his nineties he collaborates with talented filmmakers to create incredible movies. He talks with politicians, gives lectures on international forums, asks us to do things better. Sadly one day he will be gone, but hopefully his ideas will stay around forever.
This article is dedicated to David Attenborough and his amazing work.
Sources: TIME, PlasticOceans.uk, Rapid Transition, articles in The Guardian and my own knowledge based mainly on mini-series mentioned in this article. You can stream some of them legally on YouTube! Others are available on Netflix and BBC Player depending on your country restrictions.
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