“I was born in another time. I don’t mean this metaphorically, but literally. I arrived in this world during a period geologists call the Holocene, and I will leave it – as will every one of us alive today – in the Anthropocene, the time of humans… We have become a global force with such a power that we are affecting the entire planet. The Anthropocene, in fact, could prove to be a uniquely brief period… that ends in the ultimate disappearance of human civilization. It need not be so.”
This powerful statement gives a clear idea what the book “A life on our planet” is about. It is written by David Attenborough, one of the most eminent advocates for restoring biodiversity and preserving the environment. I really enjoyed reading this book, written in a most wonderful prose. It is a tale consisting of three parts.
The first part consists of David Attenborough’s personal witness statement of his life that already lasted 94 years, nearly a whole century. You will learn how the environment was transformed from a world in 1937 with a population of 2.3 billion, atmospheric carbon of 280 ppm, and a remaining wilderness of 66 percent; to a world in 2020 with a population of 7.8 billion, atmospheric carbon of 415 ppm, and a remaining wilderness of 35 percent. In this first part you will read about a man who went to some of the most remote places in the world to document some of the most extravagant species in some of the most beautiful environments. Yet this first part also documents the immense destructions to nature that were required to attain our current population level and feed our ravishing consumption.
The second part explains what challenges lie ahead of us and it describes how our world may evolve in the decades to come. It paints a rather bleak picture of how we will develop if we continue with our business as usual.
The third part I liked a lot because it contains interesting ideas and suggestions for how we may change our lifestyles and production habits in order to avoid the bleak evolution laid out in the second part and instead transform our society into a sustainable one. Here David Attenborough writes about what it implies to move beyond growth, explains the need to urgently switch to clean energy, how we could rewild the seas and manage to take up less space so that we can also rewild the land. He then goes on to briefly explain how we could achieve a more balanced life.
There are few books that manage to restrict themselves to the essential information, are written in a delightful and entertaining way, yet touch upon the most crucial aspects for our planet’s future. This book by David Attenborough is a perfect example that manages this difficult task. It was a true pleasure to read and I can only warmly advise anyone to read this if you are interested in a brief introduction to the way humankind altered our planet during the last 100 years and possible ways transform our world into a more sustainable one.
There is also a documentary linked to this book entitled David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, which I have, however, not seen. Given the many excellent documentaries by David Attenborough, I can very well imagine that this is also worthwhile to be seen. Here is the trailer: