Described as the veteran broadcaster’s witness statement and a vision for the future, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet looks back over highlights from the 94-year-old’s illustrious career and ruminates on the relentless destruction of wild habitats in the name of humanity’s progress.
Over the course of 83 minutes, Sir David underlines the bleak central message about our devastating impact on the environment, before imploring everyone to contribute to a genuinely sustainable society.
His proposed solution, reserved for the final 30 minutes, includes a carefully calibrated approach to fishing, eliminating meat from diets and limiting birth rates.
“Why wouldn’t we want to do these things? Giving people a greater opportunity of life is what we want to do anyway. The trick is to raise the standard of living around the world, without increasing our impact on that world,” he says.
“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.”
So, here are his proposals:
Reduce our population size
Sir David points optimistically towards slowing birth rates in many parts of the world, suggesting the world’s population may cease growing by the turn of this century.
Citing the example of Japan, where in 1950 a family was likely to have three or more children but by 1975 this figure had fallen to an average of two, Sir David says people are having fewer children as societies develop.
Globally, since the year 2000, the number of people aged under 16 has “hardly changed”, he adds, suggesting the main reason our population is still rising is because people are living longer.
“By investing in education and women’s rights and raising people out of poverty we could bring about peak human even sooner,” he says.
“This changes everything – it gives us the opportunity we need to regain our balance.”
Eat less meat
By upgrading to efficient food production and reducing our consumption of meat, humanity will “require far less space to provide for ourselves” and instead leave more for “grasslands”, Sir David says.
This will in turn reduce deforestation and our demand for freshwater, and ensure more people are fed with healthier, more affordable food, he adds.
Transition to renewable energy
Sir David says humanity must move to “phase out fossil fuels” and replace them with renewable energy sources, including the “eternal energies of nature” such as wind, water and sunlight.
“This will not only slow the warming of the planet, and the acidification of the ocean, but it will lead to clean air for all of us,” he says.
Protect our oceans
By working together to properly manage our oceans, humanity can establish a “global network of no-fish zones”, Sir David says.
He also calls for a treaty on the use of international waters in order to “restore the health” of our oceans so they “produce more fish for us all to eat”.
A Life On Our Planet is available to watch on Netflix now