I am David Attenborough, and I am 93. I’ve had the most extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Attenborough – Extract from his Witness Statement 2020