Saving the planet one series at a time

Eco-warrior: Sir David revealed yesterday his favourite animal is the human being

Netflix’s breathtaking, multimillion-dollar nature series, Our Planet, presented by David Attenborough, launches today. Many are praising his tireless work campaigning for the environment.

Last night, at the Natural History Museum in London, David Attenborough premiered his new series, Our Planet, in front of an audience that included members of the royal family. The new eight-part series was filmed across 50 countries, and is now on Netflix.

For over 65 years, Attenborough — the nation’s favourite naturalist — has delighted audiences all over the world with his passion for the natural world.

But now that world is in danger, and Attenborough’s new series speaks plainly about the ugly side of our planet — caused by human damage that, since 1970, has wiped out 60% of the world’s wildlife. Many scientists say that we are already in the midst of Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

In the past, while Attenborough’s shows have been successful, they have been criticised for their complacency about our impact on the environment.

After Dynasties was broadcast last year, he was even accused of having “betrayed the living world”.

“There has been a habit of having a 45-minute show where we say that everything’s fine, and in the last five minutes, we say there’s a problem,” said producer Alastair Fothergill, who worked on both Planet Earth and Our Planet. “I think that’s a little bit trite. It doesn’t deal with the issue.”

But the new series includes an orangutan called Louie playing in a Borneo jungle, followed by time-lapse footage of the same forest being destroyed for palm oil plantations.

Attenborough warns that Louie could be part of the last generation of wild orangutans.

“I would much prefer not to be a placard-carrying conservationist. My life is the natural world. But I can’t not carry a placard if I see what’s happening,” he said this week.

Certainly, when Attenborough makes a statement about the environment, the public listens. In 2017, Blue Planet II revealed that the ocean’s ecosystems are choking on plastic. A study found that 88% of viewers had reduced their plastic consumption as a result of watching the show.

But Attenborough struggles to be entirely optimistic.

“The question is, are we going to be in time, and are we going to do enough? And the answer to both of those is no,” he says.

“We won’t be able to do enough to mend everything. But we can make it a darn sight better than it would be if we didn’t do anything at all.”

Out of Eden

So, how should we feel about the future of our planet? Inspired, or depressed? When Our Planet shows the destruction across all seven continents, it is easy to despair about how much there is to do.

But, as Attenborough says, giving up only guarantees the worst outcome. When we see a clumsy baby eagle learning to fly or a turtle in the blue ocean, we should feel uplifted by all the beauty in the world worth saving. We must fight for our planet.

You Decide

  1. Can TV and the media change people’s actions in a positive way?
  2. Has David Attenborough done more to save the environment than anyone else?

Activities

  1. Make a list of three ways that you could do more to help the environment in your day-to-day life.
  2. Imagine that you are given the chance to interview David Attenborough. What would you ask him? Think of five questions.

Some People Say...

“I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored.”

David Attenborough

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Our Planet is an eight-part series that is released on Netflix today. It was filmed over four years in 50 countries, and its makers hope it will reach one billion viewers in 190 countries. Narrated by David Attenborough, the documentary looks at how humans and climate change are impacting wildlife on all seven continents.
What do we not know?
How much of an impact the series will have on our environmental habits. Blue Planet II helped plant the issue of plastics firmly in public debate, helping to bring about a ban on single-use plastics, which the EU adopted last year. Our Planet’s producers hope that its message will reach a wider international audience on Netflix than previous documentaries have on the BBC.

Word Watch

Royal family
Prince Charles is president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which helped to make Our Planet with Netflix. He was joined at the event by his sons Prince William and Prince Harry.
60%
According to a report by the WWF which was released last October.
Sixth mass extinction
The 2017 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction was won by journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction. That same year, scientists warned of “biological annihilation” as hundreds of species have been wiped out in just decades.
Trite
Unoriginal or overused.
Palm oil
This substance is in many everyday products, especially food and cosmetics. It is one of the leading causes of deforestation, particularly of orangutan habitats in Borneo.
Conservationist
Someone who acts to protect and save the environment and wildlife. Attenborough has spoken about conservation at the United Nations and the World Economic Forum in the last two years.
88%
According to Waitrose & Partners Food and Drink Report 2018-19.