David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) Movie Script

This city in Ukraine was once home
to almost 50,000 people.
It had everything a community would need
for a comfortable life.
[indistinct chatter]
But on the 26th of April, 1986,
it suddenly became uninhabitable.
The nearby nuclear power station
of Chernobyl exploded.
[helicopter hovering]
And in less than 48 hours,
the city was evacuated.
No one has lived here since.
The explosion was a result of bad planning
and human error. Mistakes.
It triggered an environmental catastrophe
that had an impact across Europe.
Many people regarded it as the most costly
in the history of mankind.
But Chernobyl was a single event.
The true tragedy of our time
is still unfolding across the globe,
barely noticeable from day to day.
I'm talking about
the loss of our planet's wild places,
its biodiversity.
The living world is a unique
and spectacular marvel.
Billions of individuals, and millions
of kinds of plants and animals...
[birds chirping]
...dazzling in their variety and richness.
Working together to benefit
from the energy of the sun
and the minerals of the earth.
Leading lives that interlock in such a way
that they sustain each other.
We rely entirely on this finely tuned
life-support machine.
And it relies on its biodiversity
to run smoothly.
Yet the way we humans live on Earth now
is sending biodiversity into a decline.
[leaves rustling]
This too is happening as a result
of bad planning and human error
and it too will lead
to what we see here.
A place in which we cannot live.
The natural world is fading.
The evidence is all around.
It's happened in my lifetime.
I've seen it with my own eyes.
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.
I am David Attenborough, and I am 93.
I've had the most extraordinary life.
It's only now that I appreciate
how extraordinary.
[speaking indistinctly]
[Attenborough] I've been lucky enough
to spend my life
exploring the wild places of our planet.
I've traveled to every part of the globe.
I've experienced the living world
firsthand in all its variety and wonder.
In truth, I couldn't imagine
living my life in any other way.
I've always had a passion to explore,
to have adventures,
to learn about the wilds beyond.
[exclaiming in surprise]
And I'm still learning.
As much now as I did when I was a boy.
[birds chirping]
It was a very different world back then.
We had very little understanding
of how the living world actually worked.
It was called natural history
because that's essentially
what it was all about...
It was a great place to come to as a boy,
because this is, um, ironstone workings,
but it was disused.
All this was absolutely clear, it was...
only just stopped being a working quarry.
When I was a boy,
I spent all my spare time
searching through rocks
in places like this...
for buried treasure.
It's a creature called an ammonite.
And in life the animal itself
lived in the chamber here
and spread out its tentacles
to catch its prey.
And it lived about 180 million years ago.
This particular one
has a scientific name of Tiltonicerus,
because the first one ever
was found near this quarry
here in Tilton, in the middle of England.
Over time, I began to learn something
about the earth's evolutionary history.
By and large, it's a story of slow,
steady change.
Over billions of years,
nature has crafted miraculous forms,
each more complex and accomplished
than the last.
It's an achingly intricate labor.
And then,
every hundred million years or so,
after all those painstaking processes,
something catastrophic happens,
a mass extinction.
Great numbers of species disappear
and are suddenly replaced by a few.
All that evolution undone.
You can see it. A line in the rock layers.
A boundary that marks a profound,
rapid, global change.
Below the line
are a multitude of lifeforms.
Above, very few.
A mass extinction has happened five times
in life's four-billion-year history.
The last time it happened
was the event that brought the end
of the age of the dinosaurs.
A meteorite impact triggered
a catastrophic change
in the earth's conditions.
75% of all species were wiped out.
Life had no option but to rebuild.
For 65 million years, it's been at work
reconstructing the living world...
until we come to the world we know...
our time.
Scientists call it the Holocene.
The Holocene has been
one of the most stable periods
in our planet's great history.
[birds chirping]
For 10,000 years, the average temperature
has not wavered up or down
by more than one degree Celsius.
And the rich and thriving
living world around us
has been key to this stability.
Phytoplankton at the ocean's surface
and immense forests straddling the north
have helped to balance the atmosphere
by locking away carbon.
Huge herds on the plains
have kept the grasslands rich
and productive by fertilizing the soils.
Mangroves and coral reefs
along thousands of miles of coast
have harbored nurseries of fish species
that, when mature,
then range into open waters.
A thick belt of jungles around the equator
has piled plant on plant
to capture as much of the sun's energy
as possible,
adding moisture and oxygen
to the global air currents.
And the extent of the polar ice
has been critical,
reflecting sunlight
back off its white surface,
cooling the whole earth.
The biodiversity of the Holocene
helped to bring stability,
and the entire living world settled
into a gentle, reliable rhythm...
the seasons.
[thunder rumbling]
On the tropical plains,
the dry and rainy seasons would switch
every year like clockwork.
In Asia, the winds would create
the monsoon on cue.
[thunder rumbling]
In the northern regions, the temperatures
would lift in March, triggering spring,
and stay high until they dipped in October
and brought about autumn.
[birds chirping and chattering]
The Holocene was our Garden of Eden.
Its rhythm of seasons was so reliable
that it gave our own species
a unique opportunity.
We invented farming.
We learnt how to exploit the seasons
to produce food crops.
The history of
all human civilization followed.
Each generation able
to develop and progress
only because the living world
could be relied upon
to deliver us the conditions we needed.
The pace of progress was unlike anything
to be found in the fossil record.
Our intelligence changed the way
in which we evolved.
In the past,
animals had to develop some
physical ability to change their lives.
But for us, an idea could do that.
And the idea could be passed
from one generation to the next.
We were transforming
what a species could achieve.
A few millennia after this began,
I grew up at exactly the right moment.
The start of my career in my 20s
coincided with the advent
of global air travel.
So, I had the privilege of being
amongst the first
to fully experience the bounty of life
that had come about
as a result of
the Holocene's gentle climate.
Wherever I went, there was wilderness.
Sparkling coastal seas.
Vast forests.
Immense grasslands.
You could fly for hours
over the untouched wilderness.
And there I was, actually being asked
to explore these places
and record the wonders
of the natural world for people back home.
And to begin with, it was quite easy.
People had never seen pangolins
before on television.
They'd never seen sloths before.
They had never seen the center
of New Guinea before.
It was the best time of my life.
The best time of our lives.
The Second World War was over,
technology was making our lives easier.
The pace of change
was getting faster and faster.
[indistinct chatter]
[Attenborough] It felt that nothing
would limit our progress.
The future was going to be exciting.
It was going to bring everything
we had ever dreamed of.
This was before any of us were aware
that there were problems.
My first visit to East Africa was in 1960.
Back then, it seemed inconceivable
that we, a single species,
might one day have the power to threaten
the very existence of the wilderness.
The Maasai word "Serengeti"
means "endless plains."
To those who live here,
it's an apt description.
You can be in one spot on the Serengeti,
and the place is totally empty of animals,
and then, the next morning...
...one million wildebeest.
A quarter of a million zebra.
Half a million gazelle.
A few days after that...
and they're gone... over the horizon.
You can be forgiven for thinking
that these plains are endless
when they could swallow up such a herd.
It took a visionary scientist,
Bernhard Grzimek,
to explain that this wasn't true.
He and his son used a plane
to follow the herds over the horizon.
They charted them
as they moved across rivers,
through woodlands,
and over national borders.
They discovered that the Serengeti herds
required an enormous area
of healthy grassland to function.
That without such an immense space,
the herds would diminish
and the entire ecosystem
would come crashing down.
The point for me was simple:
the wild is far from unlimited.
It's finite. It needs protecting.
And a few years later,
that idea became obvious to everyone.
[NASA technician] Five, four,
three, two one, zero.
[Attenborough] I was in a television
studio when the Apollo mission launched.
It was the first time
that any human had moved away
far enough from the earth
to see the whole planet.
And this is what they saw...
what we all saw.
Our planet, vulnerable and isolated.
One of the extraordinary things about it
was that the world
could actually watch it as it happened.
It was extraordinary that you could see
what a man out in space could see
as he saw it at the same time.
And I remember very well that first shot.
You saw a blue marble,
a blue sphere in the blackness,
and you realized that that was the earth.
And in that one shot, there was
the whole of humanity with nothing else
except the person that was
in the spacecraft taking that picture.
And that completely changed
the mindset of the population,
the human population of the world.
Our home was not limitless.
There was an edge to our existence.
It was a rediscovery
of a fundamental truth.
We are ultimately bound by
and reliant upon
the finite natural world about us.
This truth defined the life we led
in our pre-history,
the time before farming and civilization.
Even as some of us
were setting foot on the moon,
others were still leading such a life
in the most remote parts of the planet.
In 1971, I set out to find
an uncontacted tribe in New Guinea.
These people were hunter-gatherers,
as all humankind had been before farming.
[speaking tribal language]
[Attenborough] They lived in small numbers
and didn't take too much.
[speaking tribal language]
[Attenborough] They ate meat rarely.
The resources they used
naturally renewed themselves.
Working with their traditional technology,
they were living sustainably,
a lifestyle that could continue
effectively forever.
[speaking native language]
[Attenborough] It was a stark contrast
to the world I knew.
A world that demanded more every day.
I spent the latter half of the 1970s
traveling the world,
making a series I had long dreamed of
called Life on Earth,
the story of the evolution of life
and its diversity.
It was shot in 39 countries.
We filmed 650 species,
and we traveled
one and a half million miles.
That's the sort of commitment you need
if you want to even begin
making a portrait of the living world.
But it was noticeable
that some of these animals
were becoming harder to find.
When I filmed with the mountain gorillas,
there were only 300 left
in a remote jungle in Central Africa.
Baby gorillas were at a premium,
and poachers would kill
a dozen adults to get one.
I got as close as I did only because
the gorillas were used to people.
The only way to keep them alive
was for rangers to be with them every day.
The process of extinction that I'd seen
as a boy... in the rocks,
I now became aware was happening
right there around me
to animals with which I was familiar.
Our closest relatives.
And we were responsible.
It revealed a cold reality.
Once a species became our target,
there was now nowhere on earth
that it could hide.
Whales were being slaughtered by fleets
of industrial whaling ships in the 1970s.
The largest whales, the blues,
numbered only a few thousand by then.
They were virtually impossible to find.
We found humpbacks off Hawaii
only by listening out for their calls.
A moment ago, we made this recording
with an underwater microphone
here in the Pacific near Hawaii.
Just listen to this.
[whales singing]
[whales continue singing]
Recordings like these revealed
that the songs of the humpbacks
are long and complex.
Humpbacks living in the same area
learn their songs from each other.
And the songs have distinct themes
and variations which evolve over time.
[whales singing]
Their mournful songs were the key
to transforming people's opinions
about them.
[speaking Russian]
[protester in English] Hello, Boctok.
We are Canadian.
[over megaphone]
Please stop killing the whales.
[Attenborough] Animals
that had been viewed
as little more than
a source of oil and meat
became personalities.
[protester over megaphone] We are men
and women, and we speak for children,
and we're all saying,
"Please stop killing the whales."
We have pursued animals to extinction
many times in our history,
but now that it was visible,
it was no longer acceptable.
The killing of whales
turned from a harvest to a crime.
A powerful shared conscience
had suddenly appeared.
Nobody wanted animals to become extinct.
People were coming to care
for the natural world...
as they were made aware
of the natural world.
And we now had the means to make
people across the world aware.
[theme music playing]
[Attenborough] By the time Life on Earth
aired in 1979, I had entered my 50s.
There were twice the number
of people on the planet
as there were when I was born.
You and I belong to the most widespread
and dominant species of animal on earth.
We're certainly the most numerous
large animal.
There are something like
4,000 million of us today,
and we've reached this position
with meteoric speed.
It's all happened
within the last 2,000 years or so.
We seem to have broken loose
from the restrictions
that have governed the activities
and numbers of other animals.
[Attenborough] We had broken loose.
We were apart
from the rest of life on earth,
living a different kind of life.
Our predators had been eliminated.
Most of our diseases were under control.
We had worked out
how to produce food to order.
There was nothing left to restrict us.
Nothing to stop us.
Unless we stopped ourselves...
we would keep consuming the earth
until we had used it up.
Saving individual species
or even groups of species
would not be enough.
Whole habitats would soon
start to disappear.
I first witnessed the destruction
of an entire habitat in Southeast Asia.
In the 1950s, Borneo was three-quarters
covered with rainforest.
[young Attenborough] We heard
a crashing in the branches ahead.
And there, only a few yards away,
we spotted a great furry red form
swaying in the trees.
The orangutan.
[Attenborough] By the end of the century,
Borneo's rainforest
had been reduced by half.
Rainforests are particularly
precious habitats.
[birds chirping]
More than half of the species
on land live here.
They're places in which
evolution's talent for design soars.
[birds squawking]
Many of the millions of species
in the forest exist in small numbers.
Every one has a critical role to play.
Orangutan mothers have to spend
ten years with their young,
teaching them which fruits
are worth eating.
Without this training,
they would not complete their role
in dispersing seeds.
The future generations
of many tree species would be at risk.
And tree diversity is the key
to a rainforest.
[birds chirping]
In a single small patch
of tropical rainforest,
there could be
700 different species of tree,
as many as there are
in the whole of North America.
And yet, this is what we've been
turning this dizzying diversity into.
A monoculture of oil palm.
A habitat that is dead in comparison.
And you see this curtain of green
with occasionally birds in it,
and you think it's perhaps okay.
But if you get in a helicopter,
you see that
that is a strip about half a mile wide.
And beyond that strip,
there is nothing but regimented rows
of oil palms.
There is a double incentive
to cut down forests.
People benefit from the timber...
and then benefit again from
farming the land that's left behind.
[chainsaw revs]
Which is why we've cut down
three trillion trees across the world.
Half of the world's rainforests
have already been cleared.
What we see happening today
is just the latest chapter
in a global process spanning millennia.
The deforestation of Borneo
has reduced the population of orangutan
by two-thirds since I first saw one
just over 60 years ago.
We can't cut down rainforests forever,
and anything that we can't do forever is
by definition unsustainable.
If we do things that are unsustainable,
the damage accumulates ultimately to
a point where the whole system collapses.
No ecosystem,
no matter how big, is secure.
Even one as vast as the ocean.
This habitat was the subject
of the series The Blue Planet,
which we were filming in the late '90s.
It was... an astonishing vision
of a completely unknown world,
a world that had existed
since the beginning of time.
All sorts of things that you had no idea
had ever existed,
all in a multitude of colors,
all unbelievably beautiful.
And all of them completely undisturbed
by your presence.
For much of its expanse,
the ocean is largely empty.
But in certain places, there are hot spots
where currents bring nutrients
to the surface
and trigger an explosion of life.
In such places,
huge shoals of fish gather.
The problem is that our fishing fleets
are just as good at finding
those hot spots as are the fish.
When they do, they're able to gather
the concentrated shoals with ease.
It was only in the '50s that large fleets
first ventured out
into international waters...
to reap the open ocean harvest
across the globe.
Yet, they've removed
90% of the large fish in the sea.
At first, they caught
plenty of fish in their nets.
But within only a few years,
the nets across the globe
were coming in empty.
The fishing quickly became so poor
that countries began to subsidize
the fleets to maintain the industry.
Without large fish
and other marine predators,
the oceanic nutrient cycle stutters.
The predators help to keep nutrients
in the ocean's sunlit waters,
recycling them so that they can be used
again and again by plankton.
Without predators,
nutrients are lost for centuries
to the depths
and the hot spots start to diminish.
The ocean starts to die.
Ocean life was also
unravelling in the shallows.
In 1998, a Blue Planet film crew
stumbled on an event
little known at the time.
Coral reefs were turning white.
The white color is caused
by corals expelling algae
that lives symbiotically
within their body.
When you first see it,
you think perhaps that it's beautiful,
and suddenly you realize it's tragic.
Because what you're looking at
is skeletons.
Skeletons of dead creatures.
The white corals are ultimately
smothered by seaweed.
And the reef turns from wonderland...
to wasteland.
At first, the cause of the bleaching
was a mystery.
But scientists started to discover that
in many cases where bleaching occurred,
the ocean was warming.
For some time,
climate scientists had warned
that the planet would get warmer
as we burned fossil fuels
and released carbon dioxide
and other greenhouse gasses
into the atmosphere.
A marked change in atmospheric carbon
has always been incompatible
with a stable earth.
It was a feature
of all five mass extinctions.
In previous events,
it had taken volcanic activity
up to one million years
to dredge up enough carbon
from within the earth
to trigger a catastrophe.
By burning millions of years' worth
of living organisms
all at once as coal and oil,
we had managed to do so in less than 200.
The global air temperature had been
relatively stable till the '90s.
But it now appeared this was
only because the ocean
was absorbing much of the excess heat,
masking our impact.
It was the first indication to me
that the earth was beginning
to lose its balance.
The most remote habitat of all
exists at the extreme north
and south of the planet.
I've visited the polar regions
over many decades.
They've always been a place
beyond imagination...
with scenery unlike
anything else on earth...
and unique species
adapted to a life in the extreme.
But that distant world is changing.
In my time, I've experienced
the warming of Arctic summers.
We have arrived at locations
expecting to find expanses of sea ice
and found none.
We've managed to travel by boat
to islands that were impossible
to get to historically
because they were
permanently locked in the ice.
By the time Frozen Planet aired in 2011,
the reasons for these changes
was well established.
The ocean has long since
become unable to absorb
all the excess heat
caused by our activities.
As a result, the average
global temperature today
is one degree Celsius warmer
than it was when I was born.
A speed of change that exceeds
any in the last 10,000 years.
Summer sea ice in the Arctic
has reduced by 40% in 40 years.
Our planet is losing its ice.
This most pristine and distant
of ecosystems is headed for disaster.
Our imprint is now truly global.
Our impact now truly profound.
Our blind assault on the planet
has finally come to alter
the very fundamentals of the living world.
We have overfished 30% of fish stocks
to critical levels.
We cut down
over 15 billion trees each year.
By damming, polluting,
and over-extracting rivers and lakes,
we've reduced the size
of freshwater populations by over 80%.
We're replacing the wild with the tame.
Half of the fertile land on earth
is now farmland.
70% of the mass of birds
on this planet are domestic birds.
The vast majority, chickens.
We account for over one-third
of the weight of mammals on earth.
A further 60% are the animals
we raise to eat.
The rest, from mice to whales,
make up just 4%.
This is now our planet,
run by humankind for humankind.
There is little left
for the rest of the living world.
Since I started filming in the 1950s,
on average, wild animal populations
have more than halved.
I look at these images now
and I realize that,
although as a young man
I felt I was out there in the wild
experiencing the untouched
natural world...
it was an illusion.
Those forests and plains and seas
were already emptying.
Um, so, the world
is not as wild as it was.
Well, we've destroyed it.
Not just ruined it.
I mean, we have completely...
well, destroyed that world.
That non-human world is gone.
Uh... The... Human beings
have overrun the world.
That is my witness statement.
A story of global decline
during a single lifetime.
But it doesn't end there.
If we continue on our current course,
the damage that has been
the defining feature of my lifetime
will be eclipsed by the damage
coming in the next.
Science predicts that were I born today,
I would be witness to the following.
The Amazon Rainforest, cut down until
it can no longer produce enough moisture,
degrades into a dry savannah,
bringing catastrophic species loss...
and altering the global water cycle.
At the same time,
the Arctic becomes ice-free in the summer.
Without the white ice cap,
less of the sun's energy
is reflected back out to space.
And the speed of global warming increases.
Throughout the north,
frozen soils thaw, releasing methane,
a greenhouse gas many times more potent
than carbon dioxide,
accelerating the rate
of climate change dramatically.
As the ocean continues to heat
and becomes more acidic,
coral reefs around the world die.
Fish populations crash.
Global food production enters a crisis
as soils become exhausted by overuse.
Pollinating insects disappear.
[thunder rumbling]
And the weather is
more and more unpredictable.
Our planet becomes
four degrees Celsius warmer.
Large parts of the earth
are uninhabitable.
Millions of people rendered homeless.
A sixth mass extinction event...
is well underway.
This is a series of one-way doors...
bringing irreversible change.
Within the span of the next lifetime,
the security and stability
of the Holocene,
our Garden of Eden...
will be lost.
Right now, we're facing a manmade disaster
of global scale.
Our greatest threat in thousands of years.
If we don't take action,
the collapse of our civilizations
and the extinction of much of
the natural world is on the horizon.
But the longer we leave it,
the more difficult it'll be
to do something about it.
And you could happily retire.
But you now want to explain to us
what peril we are in.
and, in a way, I wish I wasn't
involved in this struggle.
Because I wish the struggle
wasn't there or necessary.
But I've had unbelievable luck
and good fortune.
Um, and I certainly
would feel very guilty...
if I saw what the problems are
and decided to ignore them.
[audience applauding]
[Attenborough on video]
Climbing over the tightly-packed bodies
is the only way across the crowd.
Those beneath can get crushed to death.
[walruses groaning]
[Attenborough] We are facing nothing less
than the collapse of the living world.
The very thing that gave birth
to our civilization.
The thing we rely upon
for every element of the lives we lead.
No one wants this to happen.
None of us can afford for it to happen.
So, what do we do?
It's quite straightforward.
It's been staring us
in the face all along.
To restore stability to our planet,
we must restore its biodiversity.
The very thing that we've removed.
It's the only way out of this crisis
we have created.
We must rewild the world.
[uplifting music playing]
[reindeer grunting]
[birds hooting]
[buffalo snorting]
[birds cawing]
[elephants trumpeting]
Rewilding the world is simpler
than you might think.
And the changes we have to make
will only benefit ourselves
and the generations that follow.
A century from now,
our planet could be a wild place again.
And I'm going to tell you how.
[cawing and chirping]
Every other species on Earth reaches
a maximum population after a time.
The number that can be sustained
on the natural resources available.
With nothing to restrict us,
our population has been growing
dramatically throughout my lifetime.
[crowd chanting]
On current projections,
there will be 11 billion people
on Earth by 2100.
But it's possible to slow,
even to stop population growth
well before it reaches that point.
Japan's standard of living
climbed rapidly in the latter half
of the 20th century.
As healthcare and education improved,
people's expectations
and opportunities grew,
and the birth rate fell.
In 1950, a Japanese family was likely
to have three or more children.
By 1975, the average was two.
The result is that the population
has now stabilized
and has hardly changed
since the millennium.
There are signs that this has started
to happen across the globe.
As nations develop everywhere,
people choose to have fewer children.
The number of children being born
worldwide every year
is about to level off.
A key reason the population
is still growing
is because many of us are living longer.
At some point in the future,
the human population will peak
for the very first time.
The sooner it happens,
the easier it makes everything else
we have to do.
[crowd cheering]
[Attenborough] By working hard
to raise people out of poverty,
giving all access to healthcare,
and enabling girls in particular
to stay in school as long as possible,
we can make it peak sooner
and at a lower level.
Why wouldn't we want to do these things?
Giving people
a greater opportunity of life
is what we would want to do anyway.
The trick is to raise
the standard of living around the world
without increasing
our impact on that world.
That may sound impossible,
but there are ways
in which we can do this.
The living world
is essentially solar-powered.
The earth's plants
capture three trillion kilowatt-hours
of solar energy each day.
[birds chirping]
That's almost 20 times the energy
we need... just from sunlight.
Imagine if we phase out fossil fuels
and run our world on the eternal energies
of nature too.
Sunlight, wind, water and geothermal.
[indistinct chatter]
[Attenborough] At the turn of the century,
Morocco relied on imported oil and gas
for almost all of its energy.
Today, it generates
40% of its needs at home
from a network of renewable power plants,
including the world's largest solar farm.
Sitting on the edge of the Sahara,
and cabled directly into southern Europe,
Morocco could be an exporter
of solar energy by 2050.
Within 20 years, renewables are predicted
to be the world's main source of power.
But we can make them the only source.
It's crazy that our banks and our pensions
are investing in fossil fuel...
when these are the very things
that are jeopardizing the future
that we are saving for.
[sirens wailing]
A renewable future
will be full of benefits.
Energy everywhere will be more affordable.
Our cities will be cleaner and quieter.
And renewable energy will never run out.
The living world can't operate without
a healthy ocean and neither can we.
The ocean is a critical ally in our battle
to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
The more diverse it is,
the better it does that job.
[whales singing]
And, of course, the ocean is important
to all of us as a source of food.
Fishing is world's greatest wild harvest.
And if we do it right, it can continue...
because there's a win-win at play.
The healthier the marine habitat,
the more fish there will be,
and the more there will be to eat.
Palau is a Pacific Island nation
reliant on its coral reefs
for fish and tourism.
When fish stocks began to reduce,
the Palauans responded
by restricting fishing practices
and banning fishing
entirely from many areas.
Protected fish populations
soon became so healthy,
they spilt over into the areas
open to fishing.
As a result,
the "no fish" zones have increased
the catch of the local fishermen,
while at the same time
allowing the reefs to recover.
Imagine if we committed to
a similar approach across the world.
Estimates suggest that "no fish" zones
over a third of our coastal seas
would be sufficient to provide us
with all the fish we will ever need.
In international waters,
the UN is attempting to create
the biggest "no fish" zone of all.
In one act,
this would transform the open ocean
from a place exhausted
by subsidized fishing fleets
to a wilderness that will help us all
in our efforts to combat climate change.
The world's greatest wildlife reserve.
When it comes to the land,
we must radically reduce the area
we use to farm,
so that we can make space
for returning wilderness.
And the quickest and most effective way
to do that is for us to change our diet.
[birds chirping]
Large carnivores are rare in nature
because it takes a lot of prey
to support each of them.
[wildebeest snorting]
For every single predator
on the Serengeti,
there are more than 100 prey animals.
Whenever we choose a piece of meat,
we too are unwittingly demanding
a huge expanse of space.
The planet can't support
billions of large meat-eaters.
There just isn't the space.
If we all had a largely plant-based diet,
we would need only half the land
we use at the moment.
And because we would be
then dedicated to raising plants,
we could increase the yield
of this land substantially.
The Netherlands is one of the world's
most densely-populated countries.
It's covered with small family-run farms
with no room for expansion.
So, Dutch farmers have become expert
at getting the most out of every hectare.
they're doing so sustainably.
Raising yields tenfold in two generations
while at the same time using less water,
fewer pesticides, less fertilizer
and emitting less carbon.
Despite its size,
the Netherlands is now the world's
second largest exporter of food.
It's entirely possible for us to apply
both low-tech and hi-tech solutions
to produce much more food
from much less land.
We can start to produce food
in new spaces.
Indoors, within cities.
Even in places
where there's no land at all.
As we improve our approach to farming,
we'll start to reverse the land-grab
that we've been pursuing
ever since we began to farm,
which is essential because we have
an urgent need for all that free land.
Forests are a fundamental component
of our planet's recovery.
They are the best technology nature has
for locking away carbon.
And they are centers of biodiversity.
Again, the two features work together.
The wilder and more diverse forests are,
the more effective they are
at absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
We must immediately
halt deforestation everywhere...
and grow crops like oil palm and soya
only on land that was deforested long ago.
After all, there's plenty of it.
But we can do better than that.
A century ago, more than three quarters
of Costa Rica was covered with forest.
By the 1980s, uncontrolled logging
had reduced this to just one quarter.
The government decided to act,
offering grants to land owners
to replant native trees.
In just 25 years,
the forest has returned to cover
half of Costa Rica once again.
[birds chirping]
Just imagine if we achieve this
on a global scale.
The return of the trees would absorb
as much as two thirds
of the carbon emissions
that have been pumped into the atmosphere
by our activities to date.
With all these things,
there is one overriding principle.
Nature is our biggest ally
and our greatest inspiration.
We just have to do what nature
has always done.
It worked out the secret of life long ago.
In this world,
a species can only thrive...
when everything else
around it thrives, too.
We can solve the problems we now face
by embracing this reality.
If we take care of nature,
nature will take care of us.
It's now time for our species
to stop simply growing.
To establish a life on our planet
in balance with nature.
To start to thrive.
When you think about it,
we're completing a journey.
Ten thousand years ago,
as hunter-gatherers,
we lived a sustainable life
because that was the only option.
All these years later,
it's once again the only option.
We need to rediscover...
how to be sustainable.
To move from being apart from nature
to becoming a part of nature once again.
Tonight, we've got
a rather different program for you.
[Attenborough] If we can change
the way we live on Earth,
an alternative future comes into view.
In this future,
we discover ways to benefit from our land
that help, rather than hinder, wilderness.
Ways to fish our seas that enable them
to come quickly back to life.
And ways to harvest
our forests sustainably.
We will finally learn how to work
with nature rather than against it.
In the end, after a lifetime's exploration
of the living world,
I'm certain of one thing.
This is not about saving our planet...
it's about saving ourselves.
The truth is, with or without us,
the natural world will rebuild.
In the 30 years
since the evacuation of Chernobyl,
the wild has reclaimed the space.
[birds chirping]
Today, the forest has taken over the city.
It's a sanctuary for wild animals
that are very rare elsewhere.
And powerful evidence
that however grave our mistakes,
nature will ultimately overcome them.
The living world will endure.
We humans cannot presume the same.
We've come this far
because we are the smartest creatures
that have ever lived.
But to continue,
we require more than intelligence.
We require wisdom.
There are many differences between humans
and the rest of the species on earth,
but one that has been expressed is that
we alone are able to imagine the future.
For a long time, I and perhaps you
have dreaded that future.
But it's now becoming apparent
that it's not all doom and gloom.
There's a chance for us to make amends,
to complete our journey of development,
manage our impact,
and once again become a species
in balance with nature.
All we need is the will to do so.
We now have the opportunity to create
the perfect home for ourselves,
and restore the rich, healthy,
and wonderful world that we inherited.
Just imagine that.