photo manipulation by nacrowe
anyone with a passing familiarity with nature documentaries in general is no doubt familiar with the spectacular cinematography and minute attention to detail that have come to signify the breathtaking work of natural historian and longtime presenter SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH going back decades. these tv series are in essence a celebration of life.
the film DAVID ATTENOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (SILVERBACK FILMS, 2020) is a little different. it is his witness statement, acknowledging the global degradation of the natural world by mankind during his lifetime. it is an essence a warning to us all.
i found this to be a deeply moving film. as a nonagenarian this likely to be one of his final statements and their is a retrospective quality to the first part of the film, which chronicles his career and travels relative to various markers regarding year, human population and global biodiversity. he is rather explicit about the fact that the natural world he experienced, however "wild" it appeared, was already reeling from the effects of a changing environment due to a nascent and steadily developing climate crisis. in terms of content this film is very much in line with ELIZABETH KOLBERT's THE SIXTH EXTINCTION (review linked HERE), which explains how mankind's behavior has affected global environmental systems and created various scenarios that has spurred a sixth mass extinction of a scale in terms of geological history. that book concludes that this massive, widespread degradation of the natural world (through industrial deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, ocean acidification, etc) is our lasting impact as humans, but ATTENBOROUGH here provides a way out.
that answer is familiar to any and everyone attuned to the problem. adopting a plant-based diet frees up land and water from use by the beef industry. investing in renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms will likewise limit our releasing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. limiting fishing zones and putting a halt to deforestation would also allow the earth and its various systems to rebound and heal. limiting reproduction to two children per household would also stabilize the world population and the resources needed to sustain such.
its a nice vision. i just dont see it happening in a capitalist world order. living sustainably at present is at odds with market incentives. it shouldnt be, given that the world has finite resources, but it is.
for me the most powerful aspect of this film is the opening and closing, wherein we find ATTENBOROUGH in UKRAINE. specifically CHERNOBYL, site of the famous 1986 accident at a nearby nuclear power plant. during the opening it is used as a visual metaphor for our mistreatment of world, how our failings and mistakes resulted in unnecessary damage to the surrounding environment to the point that it had to be abandoned. it could no longer support humans. in a very clever reversal, the film closes with CHERNOBYL being used as a metaphor for the resiliency and permanence of nature. luscious visuals show how nature has reclaimed the former city. rare animals can be found there now. it visually displays how nature will find a way in spite of our collective actions and inactions.
and that is his answer to those that question whether change is even possible. change is our only option. if we don't we will soon be shuttled down a corridor "of one way doors" leading to our destruction. in the end it is not the earth's sustainability that should concern us. it is our own. we are not "saving the planet," we are in fact saving ourselves. as ATTENBOROUGH put it, we need to cease being "apart from nature and become a part of nature."
deeply moving film. should be shown in schools and seen by everyone.