Sir David Attenborough
After nearly 50 years of groundbreaking natural history
broadcasting, David Attenborough
takes stock of the state of the planet and assesses why the Earth needs our help.
"The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture
book? And if the answer is no, then people world-wide have got to say: 'Yes, elephants are a glory and a splendour and a wonder
and we should not be responsible for their disappearance. And we are prepared to do something about it'."
With the serious pronouncement that a mass extinction of life - involving the loss of up to 50 per cent of all species
on the planet - may occur in the next 100 years, David says it's time to think about the natural world and where we are in
the life of the planet. He points out it's not just the "glamorous" or "popular" species that need help:
"The only way to save a rhinoceros is to save the environment in which it lives because there's a mutual dependency
between it and millions of other species of both animals and plants. And it is that range of biodiversity that we must care
for - the whole thing - rather than just one or two stars."
"It's not just that we are dependent on the natural world for our food and for the very air we breathe - which is, of
course, the case - and that the very richness of the natural world continues to provide us with all kinds of assistance. But
it's a moral question about whether we have the right to exterminate species and leave a world that is more impoverished than
the one we inherited - simply because of our carelessness and greed - to our grandchildren. People must feel that the natural
world is important and valuable and beautiful and wonderful and an amazement and a pleasure."
David Attenborough - who is known to put his pensioner's rail card to good use - raises the fuel debate:
"There are a multitude of things that the individual can do. There is the present debate going on about petrol, for instance.
The fact is that we are poisoning the atmosphere and the less fumes we put in it, the better. And we are using up our fossil
Using eco-friendly washing-up liquid and recycling the Sunday supplements alone won't save the planet but, he argues, the
individual can make a difference:
"There are things to be done at all levels: from using less power and being more modest about the demands that we put
on the environment; to not using CFCs; voting for the right politician, who you think is supporting these ideals; and giving
a few pence, every now and again, to appeals. It's about cherishing the woodland at the bottom of your garden or the stream
that runs through it. It affects every aspect of life."
If the future of life on Earth depends on our capacity to care, then David Attenborough is certainly teaching by example:
"It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the
greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."