Arts

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet 'a measured, polite and articulate call to arms'

David Attenborough in Chernobyl in a scene from David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
Damon Smith

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (PG, 83 mins) Documentary. Sir David Attenborough. Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes, Keith Scholey.

Rating: 7/10

IN AN illustrious career which began on screen in September 1954, natural historian Sir David Attenborough has been fortunate to travel to almost every nook and cranny of our fragile world in search of life in its myriad, wondrous forms.

In the 13-part series Life On Earth, he memorably travelled to Diane Fossey's mountain gorilla sanctuary in Rwanda and enjoyed a playful encounter with primates on camera. The Living Planet and Trials Of Life continued to open viewers' eyes to hidden marvels using the latest filming techniques.

More recently, The Blue Planet took a fascinating dive into shimmering depths to document previously unseen marine life and two series of Planet Earth had us biting nails down to the cuticle when a newly hatched iguana ran a slithering gauntlet of racer snakes in the Galapagos Islands.

Now 94, Sir David presents an urgent and sobering documentary directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, which he describes as his witness statement and a vision for the future.

Over the course of 83 minutes, Sir David looks back over highlights from his career and ruminates on the relentless destruction of wild habitats in the name of mankind's progress. Using the area of Ukraine close to the Chernobyl nuclear plant as a prime example of nature's endurance, the veteran broadcaster implores everyone to contribute to a genuinely sustainable society.

"This is not about saving our planet. It's about saving ourselves," he solemnly intones.

His film is a measured, polite and articulate call to arms that largely eschews the kind of didacticism and shock tactics that might quickly mobilise an army of social media warriors through shared video clips.

Every frame is lovingly crafted and snippets dredged from the archives are expertly chosen to underline the bleak central message about our devastating impact on habitats.

In 1937, 66 per cent of the Earth's vibrant wilderness remained intact. Today, that figure has reduced to 35 per cent.

If we continue to level rainforests, "where evolution's talent for design soars", our legacy for future generations will be unsustainable population growth, famine and self-annihilation. The sobering image of a lone orangutan perched atop a branchless trunk in a sea of fallen trees powerfully illustrates the wanton destruction.

Sir David's proposed solution, reserved for the final 30 minutes, includes a carefully calibrated approach to fishing, eliminating meat from diets and limiting birth rates.

"If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us," he suggests with twinkly eyed determination.

A thriving, lush ecosystem that has slowly consumed the concrete cadaver of Chernobyl backs up his assertion that as the dominant species, it is our pressing responsibility to "rewild the world".

:: David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet premieres in cinemas this week before it settles permanently on Netflix from October 4.

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