"A Life on Our Planet" Provides Environmental HopeRoundup
tags: climate change, environmental history, documentaries, environment
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University. He is the author of A History of Russia, Vol. I and Vol. II. For a list of all his recent books and online publications go here.
For over a decade I have been writing occasional articles for LA Progressive (LAP) relating to our environment, especially regarding climate change. Although I have tried to applaud those works, like Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical, which attempt to illuminate a better path forward, most of the last decade’s climate news has been depressing.
But recently I discovered especially hopeful words. They come in the last part of Netflix’s A Life on Our Planet (2020), in which the British natural historian David Attenborough narrates (and beautifully depicts) his life-long concern–he was born in 1926–with Planet Earth.
Before we get to the last part of the film, however, he shows us how Earth has deteriorated since his boyhood. (Some of the narration and photography will be familiar to viewers of his previous eight-part Our Planet series, about which I previously commented.) Accompanying his story, the film periodically flashes statistics at us. For example,
WORLD POPULATION: 2.3 BILLION
CARBON IN ATMOSPHERE: 280 PARTS PER MILLION
REMAINING WILDERNESS: 66%
WORLD POPULATION: 7.8 BILLION
CARBON IN ATMOSPHERE: 415 PARTS PER MILLION
REMAINING WILDERNESS: 35% (All quotes are from the filmscript.)
The bad news ends almost an hour into the program after Attenborough tells us what science predicts for the decades ahead.
Then, however, after all this gloom and doom, Attenborough pivots and asks, “So, what do we do?”
And he answers: “It’s quite straightforward. It’s been staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity. The very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis we have created. We must rewild the world. . . . [It] is simpler than you might think. And the changes we have to make will only benefit ourselves and the generations that follow. A century from now, our planet could be a wild place again. And I’m going to tell you how.”
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