Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet – a review by Nola Kelly

David Attenborough is known all over the world for his studies of the natural world and amazing documentaries. He has had interest and employment in this area for close to 85 years and shares his observations over that period in this most informative book. The first half of the book is his “witness statement” where he outlines the clear deterioration of the planet as the population increases along with carbon in the atmosphere and biodiversity loss, while the remaining wilderness decreases.

To outline the clearly unsustainable rate at which the planet heads towards a point at which it becomes uninhabitable for humans, David commences his witness statement in 1937 and concludes in 2020. In 1937 the population is 2.3 billion people, atmospheric carbon 280ppm, and the remaining wilderness 66%. In just 83 years to 2020 the population has increased to 7.8 billion, atmospheric carbon to 415ppm, and the remaining wilderness has declined to just 35%. The key factors contributing to the changes are outlined.

David goes on to describe the loss of biodiversity and the critical state of the planet in 2020 where:

* we are cutting down 15 billion trees each year and the world’s rainforests have been reduced by half.

*river systems are degraded, reduced in size and polluted with chemicals, while mangroves disappear.

*nitrates, phosphates, and overgrazing continue to destroy topsoil while fertile land suitable for growing food reduces dramatically each year.

*insects and pollinators decline heavily due to our use of pesticides.

*plastics invade food chains and over 90% of seabirds have plastic fragments in their bodies.

*of all the mammals on the Earth 96% is made up of humans and the animals we raise to eat. Just 4% of mammals are wild animals.

He outlines what lies ahead, which without immediate change does not look pretty.  Then comes his vision for the future which focuses on rewilding the land and the sea, switching to clean energy, planning for peak human, and taking up less space. This would lead us to achieving more balanced lives and making us a species that is more in harmony with the natural world around us.

David concludes by saying “We can yet make amends, manage our impact, change the direction of our development and once again become a species in harmony with nature. All we require is the will. The next few decades represent a final opportunity to build a stable home for ourselves and restore the rich, healthy and wonderful world that we have inherited from our distant ancestors. Our future on the planet, the only place as far as we know where life of any kind exists, is at stake.”

This is not an easy book to read, the truth never is, but it highlights the Climate Emergency that we are currently in and our need to take immediate action. The humans living in this current decade are in a unique place in history and THE FUTURE IS IN OUR HANDS.

*the Author is from Metung