Life

Sir David Attenborough on filming new BBC nature series The Green Planet

Sir David Attenborough on his new nature series The Green Planet and why we need to start taking better care of the "world of plants"...

Danielle de Wolfe

Sir David Attenborough standing within a Creosote Bush in the Mojave Desert which he previously visited 40 years ago. The bush had grown an inch since he last saw it

"THE world has suddenly become plant conscious," reflects Sir David Attenborough (95) as he discusses his forthcoming five-part BBC documentary series The Green Planet, which finds him travelling the world to investigate the rarest and most intriguing plant-life imaginable.

"There has been a revolution worldwide in attitudes towards the natural world in my lifetime," he adds.

"An awakening and an awareness of how important the natural world is to us all. An awareness that we would starve without plants, we wouldn't be able to breathe without plants.

"The world is green – it's an apt name [for the series], the world is green. And yet people's understanding about plants, except in a very kind of narrow way, has not kept up with that. I think this will bring it home."

The Green Planet sees Sir David travelling from the USA to Costa Rica and across Europe to different terrains including deserts, water worlds, tropical forests and the frozen north.

The documentary series, which comes 26 years after The Private Life Of Plants aired on BBC One, aims to show "how science and technologies have advanced, and how our understanding of the ways in which plants behave and interact has evolved".

The veteran broadcaster hopes the series will highlight the importance plants play in human life. He describes the world of plants as "a parallel world on which we depend, and which up to now we have largely ignored, if I speak on behalf of urbanised man."

"Over half the population of the world according to the United Nations are urbanised, live in cities, only see cultivated plants and never see a wild community of plants. But that wild community is there, outside urban circumstances normally, and we depend upon it. And we better jolly well care for it."

Attenborough also reflects upon the world's dependence on plants and how this has become more apparent during the pandemic due to lockdowns forcing people to remain at home more.

"I also think that being shut up and confined to one's garden, if one is lucky enough to have a garden, and if not, to having plants sitting on a shelf, has changed people's perspective.

"And an awareness (has grown) of another world that exists to which we hardly ever pay attention to in its own right.

"Of course, we do gardening programmes and have done since the beginning of television. But this is not about gardening, this is about a parallel world, which exists alongside us, and which is the basis for our own lives, and for which we have paid scant attention over the years."

The presenter, whose other series include Seven Worlds, One Planet, The Blue Planet and Blue Planet II, feels the evolution of camera technology from "heavy, primitive equipment" to today's much more advanced and portable gear has brought the series to life.

He explains: "Now we can take the cameras anywhere we like. So you now have the ability to go into a real forest, you can see a plant growing with its neighbours, fighting its neighbours or moving with its neighbours, or dying.

"And it's that in my view, is what brings the thing to life and which should make people say, 'Good lord, these extraordinary organisms are just like us' in the sense that they live and die, that they fight, they have to fight for neighbours, they have to learn to reproduce and all those sorts of things.

"But just that they do them so slowly, so we've never seen that before. And that has a hypnotic appeal, in my view."

While The Green Planet gave Sir David a break from the inherent dangers of being in close proximity to wild animals, filming for the latest series was not without its own particular perils: despite wearing protective gear while investigating the cholla cactus in California, Attenborough was accidentally stabbed by its needles during the shoot.

He explains: "The cholla really is a physical danger. It has these very dense spines in rosettes, so they point in all directions. And if you just brush against it, the spines are like spicules of glass – I mean, they are that sharp and they go into you and you really have trouble getting them out.

"So that is a really dangerous plant. The cholla is an active aggressor. I mean, you feel you better stand back and you better watch out."

:: The Green Planet begins on BBC One on January 9.

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