If you haven’t seen this documentary, spoiler alert: The world is dying and we have to act now to reverse the damages we made. But… if you haven’t been living under a rock, this is no surprise to you.
The documentary starts off in the ruins of Chernobyl, seemingly considered as one of the most destructive catastrophes in the history of mankind. Now a ghost town, it was once home to fifty thousand people, all of whom had to evacuate due to the explosion which left the place inhabitable. We see David Attenborough walking among the ruins of Chernobyl, showing derelict houses and beds that are empty. This later revealed, is a metaphor for the world we are heading towards if we don’t change our ways. A world, which will be inhabitable due to human errors.
The difference between Chernobyl and the true catastrophe of our dying planet is that Chernobyl was a single-time occurrence, while the tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes is never-ending. The tragedy of the perishing wildlife, and the biodiversity, upon which our ecosystem and our species’ survival depends on.
“This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future, the story of how we came to make this our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.”
The Change One Man Witnessed In His Lifetime
David Attenborough is a 94-year-old natural historian and broadcaster who traveled all around the globe for the past 60 years documenting and exploring the wilderness. Using his own lifespan as a timeframe to highlight the environmental changes that happened in the past 100 years, he shows us how the world is different now than it was in 1926.
Back when he was born in 1926, the world’s population was about 2.2 billion, the carbon in the atmosphere was 280 parts (per million) and the remaining wilderness was 66%. We see the population and carbon in the atmosphere increase drastically, and the remaining wilderness percentage decreasing at an alarming rate.
Attenborough narrates his childhood and earlier days of his career, a time where the world and our understanding of it were completely different. Throughout the documentary, the urge to ‘look away’ is a very prominent instinct. However, it is crucial to not look away. Because all we’ve done so far is looking away, all we’ve done is to ignore the damage that’s been building up for years. It has come to the point where we must open our eyes and take immediate action.
“Human beings have overrun the world,” Says Attenborough, almost in tears after showing the seemingly irreversible damage we’ve caused. However, the scary thing is that it doesn’t end there. If we continue like this, the damage that has been the defining feature of Attenborough’s lifetime will be overshadowed by the destruction that will come.
The Choice is Up to You
He gives us two end-scenarios. One filled with further loss of wilderness, ice-free Arctic, food crisis, unpredictable weather, inhabitable land, and the 6th mass extinction in the next 100 years. The other scenario is more hopeful. One where the human population is working alongside nature to support the common goal: our home to thrive. As he states, “A species can only thrive if everything around it thrives as well.” He, then, leaves it to us to decide which one of those futures we want to live in.
He also tells us how we can fix our mistakes and take action. He gives us a ray of hope by showing us how Chernobyl looks in 2020. Since it’s been inhabitable for 30 years, it is revealed that the wild reclaimed the land. The forest conquered the city, highlighting once more that nature will survive with or without us. It is up to us to decide whether we want to be a part of the wildlife that does survive.
To achieve that hopeful scenario, he gives us resolutions — many of which we already know. For instance, focusing on renewable energy (namely wind, solar, water, and geothermal), generating no-fishing zones to maintain marine life, opting for a plant-based heavy diet and decreasing the amount of land used for the meat industry, and stopping deforestation. The incentive is there, we just need the will to act. The sooner we realize we’re all in this together, the sooner change will happen.
I was born in a generation that has been living in this climate urgency. Our generation is more aware of our greediness; constantly asking from the world while giving nothing in return.
Watch this, and make your friends, parents, and grandparents watch it. It might be the single most important movie you will see in your lifetime.
Overall, this documentary is a must-watch. It is powerful, inspiring, scary, and emotional all at once. It shows us the error of our ways and how we can change it for the better. It left me feeling angry more than anything. This movie can be considered his last plea, a personal documentary with a political point of view. Sir David Attenborough even joined Instagram at the age of 94, to encourage as many people as possible to watch this documentary. Watch this, and make your friends, parents, and grandparents watch it. It might be the single most important movie you will see in your lifetime.
Cover: Sean Robertson