A Life on Our Planet makes the third book published on 1st October I’ve reviewed this month. The publishers offered a small number of copies through NetGalley just before p-day, and I’m very grateful to them for including me.
It’s hard to review a book by a National Treasure, but I’ve done my best.
A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future
In this scientifically informed account of the changes occurring in the world over the last century, award-winning broadcaster and natural historian shares a lifetime of wisdom and a hopeful vision for the future.
See the world. Then make it better.
I am 93. I’ve had an extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.
As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day — the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity.
I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake — and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.
We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited.
All we need is the will to do so. [goodreads]
David Attenborough needs no introduction having been the face of our wild world on television for over fifty years. I even remember Zoo Quest on our tiny black and white television, which stood in a huge box in the corner of the room. It may not have installed a passion for wildlife conservation then, but it was certainly part of my awareness of the wonderful world we live in.
In this book he takes us back to the beginning, skipping rapidly through his past, with reminders of things we know he did, because it was on television, then or later, like his searching for fossils in his local wood, which came out much later. Being reminded of his encounter with the gorillas who came and searched his hair and the baby trying to play with his boots, was just one iconic moment from hundreds of hours of wildlife footage we are familiar with.
But Sir David recounts this in decades, and each starts with a doom-laden set of statistics: wilderness reduction, species reduction, human population growth and the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Each of them is the dreaded hockey stick graph, flat for centuries, then a sharp tick upward as we reach the industrial age, and an accelerating rise that has reached epic proportions since the 1960s. I felt sick as he recounted the examples of how we are destroying, have destroyed, our planet.
Then follows the voice of doom.
What life will be like if we carry on this way? To say it is not worth living is an understatement. And we are not talking about some distant future. We are talking about 2050. And I remember in the 1990s when forecasts for climate abnormalities, storms, habitat loss, and epidemics for the 2020s sounded bad. It’s all here, now.
It all got very depressing. It seemed that nothing had changed in the last twenty years when I studied all this in my Masters Degree. Nobody had taken any notice of all the work we’d been doing… and yet…
Part three showed it doesn’t have to be that way. And it isn’t that difficult to do. Few of these things were new to me, and the scale of application required is scary. Yet many of them are already being done on a countrywide scale in enlightened parts of the world. Some countries are committed to rewilding, to a circular economy, to actual net zero emissions (not parking them on someone else).There is a way out of this mess.
We just need to step up and do it.
And the last quarter of the book is all the reference material you need to support the science, the facts, actions, the data and the scenarios he has put in front of us.
It is up to us
So in his easy-going, magnificent way of making the complex sound simple, Sir David has presented us with a stern warning and the ways we can solve our problem. It is up to us to do it.
And after reading Humankind in the summer, I know that the doom-laden news is part of what’s holding us back.
I thank my ex-colleague Rod Janssen,for the very timely quote in his newsletter:
Barack Obama (b. 1961), the 44th US President, provides us with some inspiration that we all need this week: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Essential reading for us all.'In his easy-going, magnificent way of making the complex sound simple, Sir David has given us a stern warning and the ways we can solve our problem. It is up to us to do it.' A Life on Our Planet @EburyPublishing #attenborough Click To Tweet