In a departure from his typically celebratory programs, Sir David Attenborough is highlighting mass destruction, species loss, climate change, and the current pandemic in his new production.
The BBC naturalist addresses the damage to the natural world caused by humans in the one-hour film, Extinction: The Facts.
“We are facing a crisis”, he begins, “and one that has consequences for us all.”
A Planet in Crisis
Attenborough leads viewers through man-made destruction by way of wildfires, habitat loss, climate change. A featured expert notes that of the world’s eight million species, more than a million now face the threat of extinction. In the last 50 years, bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, and reptile species have declined by 60 percent.
“Over the course of my life I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” Attenborough, now 94, says during the film.
“Only now do I realise just how lucky I’ve been – many of these wonders seem set to disappear forever.”
Fish stocks have dropped significantly in the last century; according to the program only 5 percent of trawler-caught fish are left.
Pollinators like bees and butterflies also face looming threats from habitat destruction and the use of harmful pesticides.
Attenborough takes viewers through the current pandemic as well. Its suspected origins are a Chinese wet market. The program traces the virus to bats in China’s Yunnan province; bats are often sold for food in China.
The spread of the coronavirus highlights human’s encroachment on the natural world, the program notes. It’s yet another example of how destructive our food system is. Attenborough has recently become an outspoken advocate for a dietary shift away from animal products.
The program also features successes, like the rebounding mountain gorilla populations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
“I may not be here to see it, but if we make the right decisions at this critical moment, we can safeguard our planet’s ecosystems, its extraordinary biodiversity and all its inhabitants,” Attenborough concludes.
“What happens next is up to every one of us.”
The new documentary airs on the BBC tonight.