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Turning tragedy into triumph: Sir David Attenborough’s contribution to changing generational views on climate change

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By Anisah Islam, BA Global Liberal Arts

Climate change is a controversial topic, one which can be described as causing a divide in society as some argue it is not real. However, the UK’s national treasure and climate advocate Sir David Attenborough, would disagree,  he has been voicing his thoughts on the detrimental effects of global warming on the world for years. Although many of us will be able to recognise his voice from his narration of the BBC documentary ‘Planet Earth’ (2006), the same cannot be said for his activism for mitigating climate change, limiting population growth, and reducing meat consumption.

In his 2020 Netflix documentary titled ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,’ Attenborough explains how we are in a new geographical era, called the ‘Anthropocene’ age. This new period can be defined by the effect humans have on the world, prompting a change in the climate as opposed to a change caused by nature. 

Some crucial facts from the documentary were deemed shocking and devastating by viewers, and many wish for this to be the final warning for those who are not trying to make changes to the world for the better.

1. The Amazon rainforest is getting dry

One of the largest remaining wildernesses is losing its ability to make rain. It is unable to recycle its rain because of the reduction and fragmentation of the surface of the forest, eventually leading to carbon being released into the air.

2. Ice caps are melting

The two permanent ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic are vital to maintaining a stable and moderate global temperature. This is as the sheets of ice reflect the sun’s light, helping to cool the world. Yet, the more ice that is lost will increase the risk of warming and sea levels could rise by a disastrous 50 meters if all of Antarctica’s ice was lost.

3. COVID-19 and the Australian wildfires were a wake-up call

  The 2020 Australian bushfires caused by climate change killed billions of animals and plants. But nothing would be more impactful than the pandemic that affected the entire world during the same year. It has been reported that the outbreak began with the spread of infectious diseases from animals, Attenborough elaborates that an ‘unhealthy planet’ is the cause.

Despite all this, Attenborough has high hopes for change in the future, but states it is up to governments to actively make decisions against threats, similar to the 1980s when nations rallied to stop using chlorine-based chemicals that were depleting the ozone layer in the Southern hemisphere.

“the future is not determined, it is in our hands”

It is noted that we need a fossil fuel-free economy in the next 30 years to regulate the world’s temperature, this means the next decade is crucial for everyone. There have been suggestions that were made that do not require much from the public, he advises that people should continue to recycle, plant more trees, and consume less red meat in their diet to support the development of the world. He poignantly remarks ‘the future is not determined; it is in our hands.’

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