Esmé Tilling contextualises the pandemic in line with the natural world, and offers guidance on how we can avoid a crisis on the same level again.
Broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough has dedicated his life to exploring our world, accumulating an impressive knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the numerous species with which we share our planet. His documentaries have given viewers an insight into the natural world, provoking compassion and admiration towards the creatures and aspects of life that are often taken for granted. More recently, however, Attenborough has placed a strong emphasis on the detrimental effects that human actions have had and continue to have on nature. Attenborough states: “The natural world is fading… it will lead to our destruction.” As a society, we have become increasingly individualistic. This attitude is incredibly dangerous. If we wish to prosper, we must work together. Not simply with that of our species, but with nature and all that inhabits it. Attenborough summarises this concept by stating: “We moved from being a part of nature to being apart from nature.” As a collective, it is inferred that a reversal of this is essential to our survival.
“unless we change this interaction, it is inevitable that we will face many more comparable crises”
To spread further awareness of this crucial matter, Attenborough recently released his part-autobiography, part-witness statement; A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, alongside the documentary film David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. Together, Attenborough uses these platforms to highlight this destructive relationship with nature and the resultant effects of this. Attenborough points to the current pandemic as an example. Arguing that unless we change this interaction, it is inevitable that we will face many more comparable crises. The World Organisation for Animal Health found that there are “1.3 billion individuals whose livelihoods depend on healthy animals.” However, there maintains to be “poor financial resources and inadequately staffed and organised Veterinary Services.” This combination demonstrates that global pandemic was unavoidable, for investment towards the health of animals has been wrongly disregarded.
Our relationship with animals is a crucial aspect of our maintenance on this planet, ensuring the observation of animal diseases can prevent their spread to humans and save the lives of many. The World Organisation for Animal Health claims that “more than 60 per cent of animal diseases are zoonotic (transmissible to humans), making animal health and public health closely related.” Our ignorance towards animal well-being is putting our lives at risk. Attenborough makes the statement: “This is now our planet. Run by humankind, for humankind. There is little left for the rest of the living world.” Our negligence towards animals extends to the destruction of their natural habitats. Tearing down these areas in which wild animals inhabit for uses of human benefit, is causing wild animals to move into cities. Ultimately, increasing human interaction with wild animals. It, therefore, becomes clear how Attenborough makes the connection between these issues and the current Covid-19 crises.
An article written by the Financial Times, A Life on Our Planet – David Attenborough’s warning for the natural world, has criticised Attenborough for his recent emphasis on the climate emergency. Claiming that for years Attenborough presented his viewers with a romanticised vision of nature, “which showed animals at home in pristine wild spaces.” Environmental advocates have been prevalent for decades, protesting the complacency of the government concerning our environment. In 1970, for example, the first Earth Day assembled over 20 million people nationwide in support of the cause. Is this criticism of Attenborough therefore justified, in his continued portrayal of a beautified “Perfect Planet” (as his most recent television series is titled)? Or should we value Attenborough’s recent contribution to the awareness of the human impact on the environment? Attenborough can make a big impact with his mass audience, for his books reached bestselling status and his documentaries have long been some of the most-watched wildlife programs ever produced. Reflecting on his travels in A Life on Our Planet, Attenborough admits to having been under an “illusion” for much of that time. Only realising on reflection, the vast contrast between the natural environment then and now, and the impacts of this that we are currently experiencing.