Book review: A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future

This book is a masterpiece and international bestseller in educating a nation of the true extent of what humans have done to this planet. The damage we have done and continue to do may reach a point of irreversibility, and the 96-year-old continues trying to give hope and ideas into what we can do so that we can mitigate the climate crisis.

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Sir David Attenborough. Pic. Steve Bowbrick via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bowbrick/)

This book is a masterpiece and international bestseller in educating a nation of the true extent of what humans have done to this planet. The damage we have done and continue to do may reach a point of irreversibility, and the 96-year-old continues trying to give hope and ideas into what we can do so that we can mitigate the climate crisis.

Attenborough has seen our planet deteriorate from the beginning of his adulthood, whitnessing the population grow from 2.3 billion in 1937, to a staggering 7.8 billion in 2020. He has witnessed the way in which technological and industrial advancements have destroyed our beloved planet. Through his decades of travelling and exploring, Attenborough manages to paint the planet in such beautiful ways, he also portrays to us the damage and changes we have caused in such a small-time frame of one lifetime - His lifetime.

Not only does Attenborough give accounts of his experience with nature, but he explains in depth the wrong doings we have done to get in this mess. To accompany his criticism, he provides what he believes to be clear solutions, instructions and practices which can be brought about to ensure our planet returns to good health.

This is coming from a man with a lifetime of experience in observing the wild and most of all being an activist to save the planet from the consequences of unsustainable anthropogenic practices. The words you read from such an astounding man act as inspiration to be a part of the shift in how we treat the planet - and ultimately save it.

In a gripping book full of statistics and scientific jargon, Attenborough will hold your attention for every page. There is no sense of feeling lost in this book as every detail needed to make sense is described to the reader, and as you turn the last page, you are left finding yourself to be some sort of expert in the conversation for climate mitigation.

As a naturalist, he sees the climate crisis as a crisis of biodiversity loss. The ecosystem can be viewed as a food web, whereby each species depends on many others, and there is a balance between all living creatures to continue the natural cycle of life and allow for a balance between humankind, planet and nature. Without this balance between all life and the balance between taking resources from earth and replenishing them, the ecosystem will collapse and complications will follow.

Attenborough unpicks the damage we have done and what biodiversity is left, examining how we can counteract the damage done. It may seem as though the book could spark fear and a realisation as to what sufferings the Earth has endured, but there are good moments from Attenborough’s testament through his life. One memorable story that stuck out was when Attenborough made a visit to Dian Fossey’s research camp in Rwanda. A female gorilla placed her hand on Attenborough’s head and proceeded to examine his teeth followed by two infant gorillas who started to play with his boot laces. It is stories like this in which you find joy in nature but simultaneously you have a guilt of how quickly we are causing species of animals to become extinct or how we are destroying their habitats.

In this last bid to call out for action, Attenborough makes a bold statement saying: “We often talk of saving the planet, but the truth is that we must do these things to save ourselves. With or without us, the wild will return.” Attenborough will get riled up to make changes to your lifestyle and make you aware of wanting to make big bold changes.

I finished this book with a feeling of cautious optimism for our future, and if we all read a testament from a once in a lifetime icon like Attenborough, then maybe we can all come together collectively to save this beautiful planet of ours.

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