“This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future.”
I strongly invite you to watch A Life On Our Planet. This documentary by Sir David Attenborough which was launched on Netflix at the beginning of October 2020, overwhelmed me; it is a poignant wake up call. It procured me with a mix of feelings, deep sadness, anger but also hope.
“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.”
In his 94 years, David Attenborough has visited every part of the planet, documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. This powerful movie traces his 60-year career, describing how humanity has damaged biodiversity and wildlife in his own lifetime. Making the planet uninhabitable for millions of people and bringing biodiversity populations crashing. Then he explains what to expect if we continue like this and he finishes with a message of hope for future generations by sharing different ways we can save our planet.
Please have a look at the trailer here:
“The thing is not saving our planet, it is saving ourselves. The truth is, with or without us, the natural world will rebuild”.
Human’s impacts on nature since the 1950s
Increase of the world population
Global human population tripled since 1950, going from 2.54 billions in 1950 to 7.79 billions of people in 2020. It is expected to keep growing and could reach 9.8 billion by mid-2050. The current practices do not allow our planet to support this population growth. Thus, the consequence of population growth is to lower the standard of living.
Decrease of the animal’s populations
Since the 1950s, animal populations have more than halved. Humans represent over 30% of the weight of mammals on Earth. A further 60% of animals are those that are raised for us to eat. The rest make up just 4%. Domestic animals require vast swathes of land and half of the fertile land on the planet is now farmland. 30% of fish stocks being fished to critical levels and freshwater populations declining by over 80%.
Every year, about 15 billion trees are being cut down across the world. The forest are mainly removed so the land can be used to grow meat, soya and palm oil. Forests are vital for the health of our planet, they are the lungs of it. Deforestation rate is not sustainable for wildlife, for people, or for the climate.
There’s simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation. Indeed, forests catch and absorb carbon dioxyde and therefore minimize green effect. Forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10% of global warming.
Forest provide food and habitat for so much plants and wildlife. Finally, forests have a big influence on rainfall patterns, water and soil quality. It also prevent from flooding.
The Arctic, one of the coldest and remote places on Earth, has experienced summer sea ice reducing by 40% in the last 40 years. Due to a result of ocean warming, coral habitats, which used to have colors with colorful fishes have bleached and gutted frozen fish.
What we can do to save our Planet
“We need to reexamine our relationship with nature, working with it instead of against it, to restore our planet to its former glory“
All hope is not lost however. We still have time to halt and even reverse the damage we have caused to the planet. David Attenborough presents several fairly simply and feasible solutions:
Slow down the population growth rate
By 2100, the population is expected to reach 11 billion people. And we see that growth rate is much higher in developing countries. To slow down the population growth rate, we have to raise people out of poverty, improve their access to healthcare and enable children, especially girls, to stay in school for as long as possible.
Switch to renewable energy
This is already in process but not fast enough. We have to diversify faster from fossil fuel. The movie shows the example of Morocco who relied on imported oil and gas for almost all of its energy. Today, it generates 40% of its needs at home from renewable sources, boasting the world’s largest solar farm. As Sir Attenborough says, “Renewable energy will never run out”.
Change our diet and go for largely plant based diet
We need to reduce the space we use for farmland and instead make space for returning wilderness. The easiest way to do this is to change our diets.
If we all had a largely plant-based diet, David Attenborough says, we would need half the land we use now.
Example of The Netherlands is given here. Netherlands is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. This has forced local farmers to to change their farming practices. In few decades, they have learnt how to use less water, less pesticides, less fertilizers and how to minimize carbon emission. The Netherlands has became the world’s second largest exporter of food.
Rewild biodiversity on the planet by stopping overfishing
Overfishing is the greatest single threat to marine wildlife and habitats. Nearly 70% of fisheries worldwide have been overexploited or have have already collapsed. If we continue like this, by 2050 most of the fishes are at risk of disappearing.
Palau islands is a very interesting example. Palau is a western Pacific island nation dependent on its oceans for tourism and food. At a point, fishing stocks were drastically decreasing. Therefore, the government restricted fishing practices and even banned fishing entirely in some areas. The protected fish populations soon became so healthy that they expended into areas where fishing was allowed. These no-fish zones resulted in increased catches for fishermen and recovered coral reefs.
Globally, if no-fish zones were implemented over a third of the world’s oceans, we would have all the fish we would need. The UN is trying to do just that- create the largest no-fish zone in international waters.
Rewild biodiversity by stopping deforestation
As said above, there is no way to fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation. We need forests to catch up and absorb carbon dioxyde and therefore minimize global warming. The example of Costa Rica is used. Only 100 years ago, more than 75% of the country was covered with forest. By the 1980s, because of deforestation, this was reduced to 25%. The government decided to give grants to landowners to replant native trees. After 40 years, forests cover 50% of Costa Rica.
“Why wouldn’t we want to do these things? Giving people a greater opportunity of life is what we want to do anyway. The trick is to raise the standard of living around the world, without increasing our impact on that world.”