At ninety-three Sir David Attenborough speaks and moves and thinks like someone at least two decades younger. An absolute lover of our planet, he has traveled over every inch of it time and time again and probably knows more than anyone alive about every life form, animal or plant and the evolution and transformation of every bit of the earth’s crust.
Netflix is currently airing his new documentary, “A Life on Our Planet,” which Attenborough presents as both his witness statement and his vision for the future. Never dry, or veering into erudition, he shares with us his total awe at nature’s magicality; he points out, over and over, in superb images, all its beauties as well as our infinite errors and environmental crimes.
But this most famous of all environmentalists is far from pessimistic about our future. On the contrary, he believes that the biggest issue facing us, overpopulation, is gradually solving itself as children are no longer born in unmanageable numbers. Much more effort is needed to decrease our consumption of fossil fuel and rely more on alternative energy, to stop monocultures and to save forests from destruction, but the way this man who knows the Serengeti or the Antarctica like we know our own neighborhood presents his blueprint sounds, far from unrealistic, entirely plausible and doable.
Bracketed, as we are, between the brave young teen Swede who raises her voice in defense of the world, the multitude of groups large and small putting restoring Earth to a more pristine and survivable state at the center of their life, the powerful message of Attenborough and their innumerable followers, a real possibility arises, not of our witnessing the end of planet Earth but our taking it to a new era, one where we learn to finally make the right choices.
“A Life on our Planet” is currently showing on Netflix.