Every now and again, someone is able to put the climate crisis into words so clearly, and yet so passionately, that neither detachment nor wishful thinking can argue them away. Sir David Attenborough’s exploration of the dissonance between modern life and the natural world – both of which we are a part – is far more than a documentary on climate change. It is a call to action, and he states the severity of the issue with such gravity that the viewer is left feeling as though they have been reached out to personally.
It is not as easy as it seems to talk about the climate issues threatening our entire planet with the degree of inevitability that they call for. Much of it takes place in abstraction, and it is all too common for those not involved in the centre of the discussion to see the inevitable toll as a distant prospect – something our great, great grandchildren’s grandchildren may experience if a significant change cannot be made.
And so, the majority continue to postpone what was needed decades ago.
Sir David Attenborough’s exploration of the dissonance between modern life and the natural world – both of which we are a part – is far more than a documentary on climate change. It is a call to action, and he states the severity of the issue with such gravity that the viewer is left feeling as though they have been reached out to personally.
The Blind Spot
One of the most impactful messages conveyed by Attenborough is the conflict that lies between human intelligence, and our blind spot for the planet. He discusses the speed with which civilisations learned to harness the natural world in a way that enabled populations to grow exponentially, but that there came a point at which ‘harnessing’ became exploitation.
Visibility, he claims, is the key. As the world grew closer through technology, light could be shed on some of the most devastating issues imaginable. We learn about threats of extinction, for instance, in a way that was simply impossible – or highly unlikely – just a hundred years ago.
This visibility has helped to protect species, cultures, and ecosystems under threat many times throughout the course of Attenborough’s life. Now, he brings visibility to our own vulnerability – and in such a way that anyone, whether they are educated on the subject or not, should see for themselves.
The Eternal Energies
Of course, even the gravest of situations will be met by avoidance if no solution is put forward – and Attenborough is all too aware of this. The world has reached such a solemn point that, with no means of repairing it, we would all have to bury our heads in the sand and continue on until it was no longer possible.
The resolution lies in what Attenborough deems the ‘eternal energies’ – those phenomena which were, and continue to be, responsible for the existence of all life.
Life, he states, is inherently powered by solar. The trillions of kilowatt hours that bear down on the natural world each and every day – and have done since the dawn of time – are far more than we need, and would support every area of life if we only embraced them on a global scale.
This message cuts to the very core of renewable energy. Not only do they avoid doing further harm to the planet, but they have been the very reason behind its existence since it first came into being, which means that they enable us to work in tandem with the planet.
Rather than simply acting as a more benign force than we have been since the Industrial Revolution, we can make ourselves a part of nature again without sacrificing progress.
The benefits extend far beyond supporting the planet’s recovery. Attenborough is keen to present the financial and health benefits of adopting the technology on a global scale, both in terms of domestic and commercial solar.
To power your home with the sun’s energy is to return to one of the only forces we ever needed. Solar panels can behave in the same way the natural world does; it can receive light and convert it into a force that keeps the wheels of life turning. Solar systems can mirror a vast forest in terms of efficiency and simplicity.
Now more than ever, it feels as though clarity is incredibly rare. 2020 has made us all aware, to varying degrees, of the uncertainty that surrounds immediate and distant future of our planet, which is why this documentary comes at just the right time.
Attenborough calls on living examples of the power of renewable energy. Morocco, for instance, is already fast-approaching a solar output that makes up 50% of its usage, despite the fact that it was still reliant on important fossil fuels at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Other countries can follow, provided we make it a priority.
The resolution must be unanimous – both in terms of the means, and the uptake. The mark we leave on the world as individuals has created a mammoth carbon footprint, but it can, he assures us, be fixed.
Sir David Attenborough’s documentary, A Life on Our Planet, is available on Netflix. It offers a wide-reaching exploration of the many factors that have led to the current state of the planet, and we would recommend that anyone takes the time to see it for themselves.