A Life On Our Planet is Sir David Attenborough's 'witness statement' — telling the world just how we're destroying it

A Life On Our Planet is Sir David Attenborough's 'witness statement' — telling the world just how we're destroying it

September 25, 2020

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET

(PG) 85mins 

★★★★☆

IF you’re expecting an hour and a half of sumptuous scenes of the natural world, with Sir David Attenborough’s rhythmic tones telling you about the mating call of a weird-looking bird, think again.

This incredibly important documentary pulls no punches — and will have you reaching for a reusable cup or joining the Greta Thunberg fan club the moment the credits roll.

A Life On Our Planet is Sir David’s “witness statement”, informing the world just how badly we are destroying it.

It starts with him stomping around the nuclear disaster zone of Chernobyl — making me so uneasy I wanted to scream: “Get that national treasure a gas mask now!” In these eerie scenes, Sir David explains how Chernobyl was down to bad planning and human error, leaving the city somewhere humans cannot live.

And this is exactly what humans are doing to Earth.

Starting his witness statement with “My name is David Attenborough and I’m 93,” he then reels off mind-boggling facts and figures about the environmental catastrophe we are already in.

From the 1950s when he started travelling the world for the BBC, a dial charts the global population — which shoots up over the decades — and the percentage of the planet covered by wilderness, which plunges. While the black and white footage of his early BBC work is fascinating, there’s an ill-advised dramatised flashback of his childhood that looks like a Hovis advert.

Justifiably, the broadcaster’s lessons often make for uncomfortable viewing, especially when a teary Attenborough utters the words: “We have destroyed the world.”

While never being preachy or political, there is perhaps a little too long until the words “ . . . But we can change this . . . ” are said, giving you a full hour of fear before 20 minutes of solution.

There’s no doubt this documentary will educate all ages and stages of life, and should be part of the curriculum. Because we can still heal the wounds we’ve inflicted.

As the wise Sir David says: “There’s nothing to stop us humans, unless we stop ourselves.”

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