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David Attenborough: Making the World Personal

Our thoughts on the nonagenarian national treasure

 Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough after watching film of killer whale sequence from The Trials of Life at home.

‘The first time I saw a swimmer hit a shark on the nose with a camera was in 1956’, says Sir David Attenborough in his foreword to the BBC Books’ Blue Planet II: A New World of Hidden Depths. Much has changed in the 62 years that have followed, but it’s clear that Attenborough’s sense of wonder and adventure has endured. 

Over the course of his half-a-century-long career as a leading naturalist, David Attenborough has entertained, educated and excited with unparalleled compassion and erudition. He has astonished, beguiled and moved his viewers, and he has done so with a grace, charm and candidness that have made him something of a national treasure in the process.

But the title almost feels like an undersell, an understatement. Sir David has done nothing less than dedicate his entire life to unraveling the world and its wonders before our very eyes. The 92 year old from Isleworth, is more than a national treasure, he’s an enduring symbol of the natural world and the study and exploration thereof. And as if that wasn’t enough, the guy can quite literally talk to wolves.

Simply put, Attenborough has found a way to make the world personal again. Not just in his honouring of its visual splendour, but in his accounts of the sophistication and delicacy of its systems. In doing so, Attenborough has not just become a singularly soft-spoken spokesperson for Mother Nature herself, but has placed himself on the front line of global conservation efforts.

His documentaries (such as BBC’s Blue Planet and Planet Earth) offer a ground-breaking look at – and wholehearted celebration of – the richness, variety and visual beauty of life across our planet. But they also serve as a subtle warning of what the future holds for our planet should we continue on our current path of wanton waste. These warnings come without Attenborough’s spiteful condescension or overwrought pontification. He Simply opens our eyes to the beauty and wonder of our surroundings in the hopes that we will, in turn, feel a natural drive to defend it.

In doing so, Sir David Attenborough has done more than almost any other individual to help us understand and appreciate the wonders of the world around us and the myriad reasons why we must strive to protect it. In his own words: ‘People won’t care to save something they don’t know anything about.’

From his exploration of the darkest depths of the world’s waters, to his encounters with the mountain gorillas of the forest-clad slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes of Rwanda, Sir David Attenborough is an adventurer quite unparallelled. More importantly still, he is a man who has not only explored the furthest reaches of the known world, but has had the kindness and virtue, upon his return, to sit the whole nation down and tell us exactly what he saw out there. EJ

Words by Will HALBERT
Image Credits by Richard Baker/Alamy Stock Photo