David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet (2020)

A reflection on the life of David Attenborough, what he has seen and learnt about this planet, our environmental impact, and his view on how can save the planet for future generations. If there were a remedy, to the difficulties we faced in 2020, this is it.

I don’t think I am going too far when I say this might be the best thing to come out of 2020?!?!

Not many others would be better placed to pass judgement on how our planet has changed over the last few decades, or how we are impacting and shaping the world around us than David Attenborough. A national treasure who has travelled the world and lit up our screens with insights into the natural world that many of us would never hope to be able to see in the wild.

David Attenborough, A Life On Our Planet (2020)

Environmental Statistics:


World Population: 2.3 Billion

Carbon in Atmosphere: 280 Parts Per Million

Remaining Wilderness: 66%

David Attenborough personifies the sense of wonder and lifelong learning that should be instilled in us all.

This documentary looks at global biodiversity decline and the far-reaching effects that this is having on the planet and all the species that live upon it. It opens by likening our environmental impact on the planet to the deserted remnants of the communities affected by the Chernobyl disaster. It warns that we are reliving the same mistakes and are currently witnessing the creation of a world where we cannot live.

Education is a vital weapon that can be used in our battle against the destruction of our planet. The documentary looks at how we have developed and evolved as a species and how our intelligence has allowed us to create change, and achieve things, that no other species has ever done before. It also highlights how it has simultaneously allowed us to see how wonderful the world is around us and gave us the technology and progression to destroy it. Intelligence and development have made our species what we are today but is likely to also be our downfall.

Destructive practices having an environmental impact are varied and widespread, including:

  • whaling
  • poaching
  • over-fishing and bycatch
  • ever-increasing population numbers
  • over-exploitation of resources
  • habitat/ecosystem destruction
  • marine pollution
  • intensive farming/trawling
  • spreading monocultures
  • burning fossil fuels
  • deforestation
  • poor water management
  • sprawling urbanisation
  • disrespect and disconnect of natural world, and more.

“A story of global decline over a single lifetime.” – David Attenborough

The tale that David Attenborough tells us about his life and his learnings paints a bleak outlook for the future. He warms of the risks that we are subjecting ourselves to if we continue living as we are. The ecosystems of our planet will collapse, and the global crash will take us, and our way of life, with it.

The truth is that the longer we leave it, the harder it will be to stop catastrophic, irreversible environmental change to our planet. No one actively wants to have a negative impact, but now we have reached a point where can no longer afford to continue having a negative impact. The moment for change is now.

David Attenborough identifies that the only way to stop catastrophic environmental change is to restore biodiversity. We must rewild the world.

“We are facing nothing less than the collapse of the living world.” – David Attenborough

However, before you completely panic, there is something we can do – but only if we are willing to make change now.

  • Slow or stop population growth, through improved health care, education and raising communities out of poverty on a global scale.
  • Embrace renewable energy sources and phase out fossil fuels.
  • Restore health to our oceans by reducing pollution, increasing biodiversity, and regulating fishing to be sustainable.
  • Reduce farming land and deforestation, rewild these areas as soon as possible.
  • Revolutionise our farming practices to be more sustainable and increase yield.
  • Change our diets to reduce meat and dairy consumption and increase plant-based options.
  • Plant more trees.

These sounds like big concepts and huge goals, and they are. However, they are also achievable if the want is there to make change and see the revolution through by those who have the power to make significant, long-term change.

David Attenborough, A Life On Our Planet (2020)

Environmental Statistics:


World Population: 7.8 Billion

Carbon in Atmosphere: 415 Parts per million

Remaining Wilderness: 35%

All I can say is that if you haven’t already watched this, then you should stop reading this right now and put it on! It will teach you far more about living a fulfilling and sustainable life than I could hope to at this point in my career. David Attenborough does what he does best; explains the intricacies of the planet in a way that allows us all to understand, without ‘dumbing down’ the science too much or lessening the impact of his words.

The preservation of the natural world and our place within it is the only way out of the current global crisis’ that we face. Instead of fighting the inevitable, we should admit our failings, learn from our mistakes and embrace change for the sake of the future survival of humans and the planet, for generations to come.

“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.” – David Attenborough

The natural world will continue, with or without us. There is no one solution, as there is no one single problem. The environmental problems we face are systemic and widespread across the globe. It can seem overwhelming to try and tackle the crisis’ that we face but we proved in 2020 that we are capable of doing the unthinkable. Now, all we have to do is decide to not continue to be ignorant to the part we are all playing in the destruction of the planet and then healing, and change, can begin.

No ecosystem is safe, no matter how big. We are living unsustainably – so you need to decide whether you are going to be part of the solution, and demand change, or continue to be part of the problem.

Ignorance is no bliss, it’s unacceptable.

Written by Rebecca Hansell

Originally written for Small World, Big Cause – December 2020, updated and refined for The Curious Environmentalist April 2021.


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