Design a site like this with
Get started

The Impact of Human Activity: David Attenborough’s ‘A Life on our Planet’

By: Bibiana Egbunike

An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.” – David Attenborough

Source: Netflix

It is a known fact that human activity over the past hundred years has had a significant impact on our environment. Sir David Attenborough, a 94-year-old natural historian and broadcaster who has been to all seven continents and narrated countless documentaries relating to our planet earth, shows us the devastating impacts human activity has had on the planet throughout his lifetime.

This documentary is a must-watch for anyone who is concerned about the creeping tragedy that awaits humanity if we do not try to work together with nature instead of against it.

Sir David begins this compelling documentary with a significant story of an abandoned city: the disaster of Chernobyl. An unfortunate event caused by a nuclear accident in 1986 made the city where the nuclear power plant was located uninhabitable. It was a terrible disaster that is hoped to never repeat itself. However, Attenborough explains that the event was caused by “bad planning and human error” and that while ensuring that such a terrible event doesn’t repeat itself, humanity also needs to focus on the real threat to our existence: ensuring climate change does not leave every other city like Chernobyl.

Biodiversity, or the variety of life on earth, is one of the first things the documentary mentions. Sir David uses an interesting term, referring to wildlife as humanity’s “life-support machine”. He explains that biodiversity can no longer be seen because many creatures have either become extinct or endangered, mostly due to the destruction of their homes.

Effects of the changes in biodiversity are all around: just take a walk down a park or a trail and you would notice the lack of abundance of animals that would have been walking around the area about fifty to sixty years ago either hidden in the bushes or taking a peek at you.

The documentary does a splendid job of conveying the destruction mankind has caused to the very environment that sustained it. Through many insightful clips, Sir David shows the before and after videos of many places he had travelled to as a young researcher. It is clear that there is a loss of wildlife in both land and aquatic habitats. As you watch this documentary, you can see the deep grief and sadness in Attenborough’s eyes as he appeals to humanity to stop hurting the environment. It is rather remarkable and saddening to see that such a man, who has always had a deep love for nature, lived through most of the major events caused by climate change.

Sir David goes on to explain the rapid effects of climate change when he says “the natural world is fading. The evidence is all around, it’s happened in my lifetime, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future. The story of how we came to make this our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.”

Throughout the length of the documentary, Sir David encourages viewers to become aware and reduce their carbon footprints. In addition, he expresses the need for humanity to come together as one and form long-term solutions that would help mitigate climate change. Humanity as a whole needs to reform its ways to make sustainability a lifestyle, not a short-term solution. Working with nature is the only option to prevent this inevitable catastrophe.

At the end of the documentary, Attenborough also provides some well-thought-out critical solutions that every individual can practice in their life to help combat climate change. Some of these solutions include: consuming less meat (meat-eaters who do not entirely want to cut out meat from their diet can just make their diet more plant-based), having “no fish” zones in the ocean to allow for aquatic life to bloom, investing in sustainable farming methods (i.e vertical farming to help reduce the emissions that come from current farming methods), and produce even more food with less damage to our planet.

This documentary appeals to both logic and emotion. It is a beautifully produced witness statement that is necessary for anyone who is interested in ways they can help save our planet. We as a species have made a mistake, but luckily we still have a chance to fix it. It is a great inspiration and starting point for understanding all the complexities that come with climate change and what we can do to stop it.

On a final note, Sir David ends the documentary with a quote that leaves much to think about,

“We need to move from becoming apart from nature to a part of nature”.

It is important to come together in these crucial moments to create a turning point for mankind and restore the planet to what it used to be to allow for present and future generations to thrive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: