David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) – A Witness Statement


Sir David Frederick Attenborough is a renowned English broadcaster, who has over the years used the powerful medium of cinema to a create a noteworthy impact and has educated people in the process. His latest film David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, is a documentary that talks about how slowly and steadily the natural world is fading, only to cater to our avarice desires, and our incessant urge to gain control over every aspect in this delicately balanced Planet. There is no doubt, no two ways about the fact that the human species is solely responsible for the loss of habitats, for the loss of ecosystems, for the extinction of many species and for the disruption in the equilibrium to point where it has broken the rhythm of the natural processes. There were evidences of a broken and tampered system all around us, but still it took a moving speech at the Oscars, for the biggest agencies and regimes to agree to the fact that climate change is happening, it is real, and if human activities are not regulated then we might reach a point of no return i.e the 6th mass extinction.

A Life on Our Planet is a sort of compilation of all the work and research of David Attenborough, and the conclusions he has come onto after years of explorations. This is his Witness Statement. There is no jury, no bench or any judge to examine this statement, but it is left on the 7.8 billion human beings to give the final  judgement based on this terrifying testimony.

Our Garden of Eden

The word holocene means that period of time in the history of the Earth in which minimal or no changes have been seen in the conditions of the planet. By conditions here we mean, the fluctuations in the temperatures. A small amount of fluctuation is capable of causing humungous change in the persisting conditions of this planet.

Human activities play an important role in this fluctuation. After the industrial revolution widespread changes have taken place, at a rate which is alarming. We are on the verge of exhausting our non renewable energy resources i.e energy from fossil fuels.  We have not only exploited the natural resources but destroyed them forever.

A Life On Our Planet documents the period from 1938 to the present time. In this time period itself more than 3 trillion trees have been cut and the hot-spots of biodiversity, the rain-forests, have shrunken to half their size. We have over fished over the past several years and disturbed the intricately delicate balance of the oceans, which serve as our ally in the war against the carbon emissions. What was supposed to be our garden of Eden, has turned into a state of dystopia for all the other species.

A Life On Our Planet arguments “Is There A Way Out?”

The best part about this documentary drama is that is doesn’t leave you by just showing the eerie path that we have taken, but gives a flicker of hope. David Attenborough tells us that we can still save this beautiful planet from getting destroyed by our greed for more.

Morroco, the North African country over the past several years, has been working to devolop a sustainable energy source. It has succeeded in building the largest solar farm of the world. The country has not only become self dependent but also started exporting energy.

Netherlands has become the 2nd largest exporter of food. It has done so by using minimal fertilizers and space. They have started indoor farming in a cost effective manner. Using indoor spaces as farmlands means that less forests would have to be cut and converted into farmland thereby increasing the biodiversity.

Japan, a country known for its development started focusing on a better life quality. It has reached a stage where due to low birth rates the population of the country has become stable. Over the last several years as a matter of fact it is even dwindling. The developing and the under developed nations have to take a que from the Japan model, and have to start implementing norms to curtail the ever growing, unrestricted human species.

There are many such nations that have set an example in front of the whole world. We are not out of options yet. Policies have to be made at a governmental level. Change is inevitable, but the path is not austere, it’s a win win situation.

“I took a walk into the woods and came out taller than the trees” – Henry David Thoreau

Nature is our biggest ally and greatest inspiration. We have to understand that we can only thrive if everything around us thrives. You can’t throw the garbage on the road and expect your house to be clean. We have to think inclusively. We have to act in a responsible manner. The blame game has to stop because nature has it’s own secret ways to replenish what is lost, but the same cannot be said of the human species.

Early in the morning  of 26th April 1986, one of the costliest man made disaster took place. It was the effect of some bad planning, human errors and mistakes. We know it as the Chernobyl Disaster. What we don’t know is that the city of Chernobyl, in Ukraine, was partly abandoned as a result of the presence of  highly radioactive materials in the air. In the past 30-35 years the abandoned place of Chernobyl has become a sanctuary by default. Due to the absence of human population, nature has thrived. We can see many rare animals in addition to the beautiful flora. The forest has taken over the whole city. It’s amusing to see this and you realize that something bigger than you is at play. It was never about saving the nature, with or without us, it will thrive. It has been always about saving us. And that can only happen if we work with nature rather than playing against it. We have come this far due to our cerebral superiority, but as the film says I quote

“To move forward we need more than intelligence, we need wisdom.”

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is streaming on Netflix.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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