Last night, I sat down to watch “A Life on Our Planet”. I never miss an opportunity to watch Sir David Attenborough’s documentaries. He is, without doubt, one of my favorite people on this stunning blue marble that we call home.
David Attenborough is 93 years old. In those nine decades, he has seen every corner of the world. He’s snuggled with gorillas, witnessed a blue whale surfacing beside his boat, said “boo” to a sloth, and met hunter-gatherer tribes in Papua New Guinea.
In those nine decades, he has also witnessed, first hand, the destructive toll that human life has taken on our planet. Typically, the tone of his documentaries are more upbeat, his honey-laden educating us on the billions of lives, both human and non-human, living on our planet. That is not at all the case in “A Life on Our Planet”. While still maintaining his educational, persuasive, intellectual tone, the honey is gone. This documentary is served up as a dire warning. If we do not change our ways, a sixth mass extinction is certain. Within the next 80 years, our planet will become nearly uninhabitable. Warmer oceans, nonexistent ice caps, unpredictable weather, and a dire shortage of food are all part of that future.
The images in the film, depicting the future that our planet is facing, play our like a real life horror movie. Rainforests burning, fields drying up, soil so tired from overuse that it is no longer viable for producing food, reefs completely dead as a direct result of acidity in the oceans caused by warming waters. Heartbreaking scenes from “Our Planet” play at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, showing walruses, forced onto an overcrowded bit of land, falling from seaside cliffs to their gruesome deaths. As with “Our Planet”, I was in tears.
The destruction of our planet, a very finite resource, is happening right before our eyes as a direct result of our notably negative impact on our planet. Earth is, as David put it, controlled by humans for humans. Our species is a self-serving one. Our comforts seemingly trump the stability of the planet. Biodiversity is disappearing due to overfishing our seas, mass deforestation, overconsumption of animals, and overuse of the land. Since the 1970s, humans have wiped out a considerable amount of the world’s wilderness.
Towards the end of the film, David offers up a bit of advice. He lays out exactly how we can turn things around. Using renewable energy, eating a plant-based diet, no fishing zones for about a quarter of the world’s coastlines, using less of the land for farming activity. Walking through a long-since deserted Chernobyl, he shows us that the earth will reclaim the land if we stop using it. The trees have grown back, taking over the city almost entirely and wildlife is flourishing.
Sir David Attenborough gives us a solution, a way to prevent the dire future that we all face. This is our home. The only home that we’ll ever see in our lifetimes. Will people listen or will they continue to ignore the nearly insurmountable damage that we are causing?