Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website (CC BY 3.0 AU)
David Attenborough can tell me that the world is well and truly collapsing around us and yet I still love nothing more than listening to him. Maybe it’s in his comforting voice, or the fact that he has been blessing our screens for almost 70 years, but he can make even the most overwhelming and devastating topic palatable.
Apparently, I am not the only one invested in whatever the national treasure has to say, as the ratings for Attenborough’s recent BBC One presentation ‘Extinction: The Facts’ can attest. Despite the fact that its topic of focus was the million of species that are at risk of extinction, the show had an audience of 4.5 million on September 18th.
Julia Patricia Gordon Jones, a Professor of Conservation Science here at Bangor University, also appeared in the documentary. In a blog post for The Conversation she calls ‘Extinction: The Facts’ “surprisingly radical” and a “significant departure” after admitting frustration with the portrayal of nature as untouched in previous Attenborough documentaries.
‘David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet’, which recently opened in cinemas and will be available on Netflix on October 4th, also focuses on the precipice that we find ourselves, and what we can do to help save our planet. Told through the lens of examining Attenborough’s life and the changes he has seen in the world, Attenborough explains how we got to this point and what our future could look like. The film has been described as powerful, moving, terrifying, and angry, which is a side of Attenborough rarely seen.
David Attenborough has enthusiastically been bringing the wonders of the world into our living rooms for decades, so it seems only right that he is taking it into his own hands to warn us of climate change, why we should care, and what actions we need to take. His earlier films rarely focused on the loss of biodiversity that is occurring due to climate change and habitat destruction, but it makes his current messages that much more powerful. He is taking decades of experience and showing his audience members that yes, we have destroyed our world, but we can still fix it.
In 2018, the last episode of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series highlighted the need to reduce plastic waste, especially single-use plastics. A year later a GlobalWebIndex 2019 survey recorded a 53% reduction of the use of plastic by consumers in the UK over a 12-month period, attributing this occurrence to ‘The Attenborough Effect’. Given David Attenborough’s power as a household name, the suggestions that he highlights in ‘A Life On Our Planet’, including protecting one third of British coastlines to help restore fish populations, reforestation and solar power, will hopefully receive similar support.