David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
(with thanks to Earth.Org for transcripts)
The take away for me from Attenborough’s detailed review of our planet’s condition; there is hope if the world comes together and implements solutions to the challenges the planet is undergoing at this time.
If left unchecked the science indicates that by the year 2100 the planet will be four degrees Celsius warmer. Large parts of the Earth will be uninhabitable and this will in turn leave millions of people homeless.
Scientists predict that the sixth mass extinction will be well underway at this point, causing irreversible damage to the planet.
The security and stability of the Holocene era- our “Garden of Eden,” as Attenborough calls it, will be lost.
The last third of the documentary deals with the solutions.
Attenborough says that all hope is not lost. We still have time to halt and even reverse the damage we have caused to the planet.
The film lays out several simple and plausible solutions, including:
1. We need to slow the rate at which the global population is growing; by 2100, the population is expected to reach 11 billion people. To slow the population growth rate, we need to raise people out of poverty, improve access to healthcare globally and enable children, especially girls, to stay in school for as long as possible.
2. We need to shift to renewable energy, a process which is already happening at a rapid – albeit not rapid enough – pace. At the turn of the century, Morocco relied on imported oil and gas for almost all of its energy. Today, it generates 40% of its needs at home from renewable sources, boasting the world’s largest solar farm. With its rapid advancements in this area, Morocco could be an energy exporter by 2050.
Globally, renewable energy may be the dominant source of energy in 20 years. Attenborough calls for the divestment from fossil fuels and points out the irony of banks and investment firms investing pension funds in fossil fuels when it’s these dirty fuels preventing the future that we are saving for.
3. We need to restore – or “rewild” – biodiversity on the planet. When ecosystems are more diverse, they are better able to perform essential ecosystem services, like carbon sequestration. An example of this is the oceans.
Palau is a western Pacific island nation dependent on its oceans for food and tourism. When fishing stocks were rapidly depleting, the government restricted fishing practices and banned fishing entirely in some areas. The protected fish populations soon became so healthy that they spilt into areas where fishing was allowed. These no – fish zones resulted in increased catches for fishermen and recovered coral reefs.
Globally, if no – fish zones were implemented over a third of the world’s oceans, we would have all the fish we would need. The UN is trying to do just that to create the largest no fish zone in international waters.
4. Additionally, we need to reduce the space we use for farmland to instead make space for returning wilderness. The easiest way to do this is to change our diets. If we all had a largely plant-based diet, Attenborough says, we would need half the land we use now.
In nature, large carnivores are fairly rare; for every predator on the Serengeti, there are more than 100 prey animals.
The Netherlands is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. This has forced Dutch farmers to use land much more efficiently. Through creative and innovative changes to farming practices, in two generations, the nation has raised yields tenfold while using less water, fewer pesticides and fertilisers and emitting less carbon. Today, the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food.
5. Finally, we need to halt deforestation as forests are the planet’s biggest ally in locking away carbon. Further, forests must be more biodiverse as this will make them more effective at absorbing carbon. Crops like oil palm and soya should only be grown on land that was deforested long ago.
Attenborough utilizes Costa Rica as an example.
A century ago, more than three-quarters of the nation was covered with forest. By the 1980s, thanks to rampant deforestation, this was reduced to one quarter. The government intervened, giving grants to landowners to replant native trees. Thanks to this initiative, forests now cover half of Costa Rica once more.
“The problem is immense, but we already have the knowledge and skills to halt and reverse it. We need to re-examine our relationship with nature, working with it instead of against it, to restore our planet to its former glory.”
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet