Yesterday marked the 97th birthday of Sir David Attenborough. For generations, he has been the chief connection between children and the natural world beyond their safe schools, concrete cities, and cotton-wool existence. As our civilisation urbanised, work such as his became essential otherwise how else would a child raised in modernity learn to care about an endangered frog in the Amazon? And yes, they should care about the other living things on this planet.
Attenborough is part of that era who never really retired, continuing to churn out content even at 97. His recent series, Wild Isles, took Attenborough out of the voice-over studio and back into the wild – a feat he’ll be repeating for his next show, which is set to begin shortly.
His 1979 Life on Earth series was still being shown in schools during the early 90s. Schools also routinely played The Private Life of Plants and The Living Planet. Teachers used these excellent documentaries as the hook to open up the world of natural biology in what were probably the more enjoyable classes of early childhood.
When people think of Attenborough, it is usually in fondness of these fascinating early works.
Considering this, Attenborough may well be responsible for an untold number of adults who took on careers in conservationism. Unfortunately, this achievement now comes with a side-order of zealous eco-fascism, where the conservation message has been muddled with something a lot more sinister emerging in the form of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil.
We have to remember that the bulk of Attenborough’s work was done in the days before the Internet. Wondrous footage of strange creatures were much harder to come by, while books on the subject lacked the necessary images of these fascinating environments. Quite simply, he brought the hidden corners of the world to life.
Unfortunately, today’s David Attenborough is not the Attenborough of our childhood.
The joy of nature has been overtaken by the suffocating grip of relentless political messaging. His documentaries are no longer about the wonder of the outside world – they revolve around the twin ideological nightmares of Climate Change and Net Zero. In this version of nature, humans are the great evil destroying the world. Kids are being taught to fear, not wonder. Worse, those societies who have done the most to help the planet are demonised as the vandals. The West, in particular, is told to open its wallet and shower the third-world with cash in a rather cynical display. This has caused many to turn away from environmentalism, seeing it as a thin veneer of propaganda covering a lucrative scam.
It might be considered trivial, but telling kids to ‘save the world’ out of self-interested terror instead of a love for their fellow creatures changes the sort of people they become and moves the acceptable boundaries of environmental thought into an era containing words like ‘ecocide’. Kids should not be crying in the street, sticking themselves to the pavement, or demanding communism. None of this helps the environment, but it does serve the wider interest of international bodies.
‘Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster on a global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.’ – David Attenborough, COP26
What is it that Speccie Editor Rowan Dean says on his Sunday morning show? Hyperbole (in a Julia Gillard accent).
It is the same hyperbole featured in Attenborough’s recent documentaries and public messages, such as the one recorded for the United Nations’ Ocean Conference.
‘Now we are facing the consequences: the seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic. It’s a sobering thought, that coral reefs may be lost within the next century.’
It is not possible to pick a more ridiculous canary in the coal mine than coral, as it is a migrating lifeform that has endured, quite happily, enormous shifts in sea temperatures and heights having first appeared in the Cambrian, 535 million years ago. In the last 100,000 years alone, sea levels have fluctuated by more than 120 metres. The coral will be fine. It does raise the question, how often are these claims tested and challenged?
At some point it has been forgotten, even by lifelong environmentalists, that life is a constant evolution dependent on the cyclic cataclysm of nature. Nothing alive today would exist if it were not for the ruination of past utopias.
The idea that we are heading toward a barren, lifeless world because there is more carbon dioxide in the air than recent (not historic) times, is pure fantasy.
Although I would agree with Attenborough that humans are capable of ruining their environment. China is one of the worst examples of human catastrophe where the majority of all water systems have become so severely polluted that humans can no longer touch them, let alone drink from them.
Pollution and the physical destruction of local environments are the two things lost under the cover of Net Zero, because while Xi Jinping can stand in front of the UN and say he is a world leader in solar panels and wind turbines, the activist class cheer – even if the factories and mines creating this Net Zero miracle are pumping toxic and radioactive material straight into the ecosystem.
Few people are as devoted to the narrative of climate fear as Attenborough, with many publications today noting his address at the end of Frozen Planet II in which he talks lovingly about the farce of COP26.
‘We can do it [limit warming to 1.5 degrees], it’s within our power to do it. We can do it. We must do it. Then there will be a future for the planet.’
The implication being that if we don’t do it, somehow the world will ‘end’ even though life has flourished and much warmer temperatures – even within human history, let alone the depths of the last 4.5 billion years.
Attenborough laments the physical destruction of habitats, and in this he is correct, but right now the technology causing the most real-world harm are the forests of wind turbines and fields of solar panels. A true environmentalist would never support nor encourage such a barbaric and pointless ruin of the natural world for what amounts to a political slogan.
It is an immense shame that the extraordinary work mesmerising children into a love of the natural world will be remembered by the last two decades of activism that teaches children little but blame, guilt, fear, and terror.
Most people are traditional environmentalists, but wanting to care and protect the world has diverged into political environmentalism.
The COP events, as an example, prey upon environmental messaging while actively promoting corporate interests. The politicians who attend similarly misuse environmental concerns as a means to absolute power, telling the world’s people that if they do not surrender their freedom, rights, and economies then the world will ‘literally end’.
This type of environmentalism is an abuse of the natural world.