A Life On Our Planet – David Attenborough

A Life On Our Planet – David Attenborough

I’m reading this incredible biography of David Attenborough.  It shows us just how much we have lost and how much more we are going to lose if we do not act.

For any deniers it should be compulsory reading.

YearWorld populationCarbon in the atmosphere in parts per millionRemaining wilderness
19372.3 billion28066%
19542.7 billion31064%
19603 billion31562%
19683.5 billion32359%
19713.7 billion32658%
19784.3 billion33555%
19895.1 billion35349%
19975.9 billion36046%
20207.8 billion41535%

It is incredible to reflect back to times in the past and read records. Life on the planet was plentiful. What we now have are the vestiges of what was once around. We have destroyed the bulk of it.

The incredibly complex web of life is being systematically taken apart. Aspects are so interwoven and specialized, having taken millions of years to develop, that there comes a point where it all just fails.

When that happens soil becomes sterile, oceans stagnant, oxygen not replenished, climate changes and life on the planet is no longer possible – at least not as we would recognize it.

The bacteria would survive.

It would have to start all over again.

12 thoughts on “A Life On Our Planet – David Attenborough

  1. The main problem is there are too many of us. But try telling that to the young couple who are going for their second or third child. Maybe the virus has come to save the planet!

    1. That is exactly right. Riding around in the Phillipines with our driver (in his thirties) telling us proudly about his twelve kids. You can see the problem. Too many people. Too much destruction and pollution.

  2. David Attenborough was an excellent wildlife presenter. And as an administrator, he wasn’t all bad – I’ve heard he commissioned the first series of Monty Python! But some time in the 1980s, it seems, he started to go overboard on the green agenda.

    As to CO2, I just looked up a 2018 paper on optimal CO2 concentrations for the growth of plants. It suggests that a range of 900 to 1200 parts per million is best. So, if we want more plants (and so, in time, more animals), we ought to be getting CO2 levels up, not down!

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “wilderness,” but I’ll say again what I’ve said before. If you want to have more of the natural conditions which support particular species or combinations of species, you should get together with like minded people, buy suitable land, and establish reserves! Look at what the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has done, for example.

    As to population, it’s all very well for you to say “too many people.” But you have no right to tell others how many children they should have. That is their decision, based on their own particular situations. And I consider it hypocrisy for anyone who has children and grandchildren to complain about others having too many children.

    1. David Attenborough is not only a great presenter but also a great naturalist.
      You saying that he suddenly went overboard on green issues is really that he, from his own knowledge and experience, realised the tremendous harm we are doing to nature and our own future.
      High CO2 levels are indeed great for plants. Unfortunately, they are not good for either the temperature of the planet, many animal species or ourselves. The type of rise in sea levels, reduction in land mass and effect on coral reefs, fish stock (dependant on ice and coral) would be disastrous for us. Our cities and farmland would be under water.
      Your lack of understanding of the complexity of the interconnecting web of ecology is frightening. You glibly say about it being good or bad for different species. It is so much more than that. The sea, soil and forest are incredibly complex interconnecting communities. Once these are disturbed things go to pieces. They all have tipping points and we are approaching many of them. Through deforestation, overfishing and overuse of soils we are in danger of creating toxic climates and conditions that would not only be disastrous for many species but would be a disaster for us too. Whether you like it or not we are part of that biosphere and utterly dependent on it.
      Buy the book and read it. Educate yourself to the intricacies of life on this planet and how much damage we have done in a short while.
      As for population – it is the key problem. We are far too numerous. That is what is causing the problem – pollution, use of resources, destruction of forests, overfishing. But I am not suggesting that we instruct people or impose restrictions. I would use incentives, education, birth control, pensions and welfare. The population would come down naturally.

      1. Opher, historically humans have done better in warmer times than in colder ones. Look at the Roman and Mediaeval Warm Periods, and what followed them.

        As I’ve said before, the only threat I find credible from a small (say 3-4 degrees C) rise in temperature is sea level rise. But that’s going to happen anyway – it’s been happening for around 12,000 years. And we know how to adapt to sea level rise – the way the Dutch have done for centuries. (When I lived in Holland 40+ years ago, I lived almost 8 metres below sea level.)

        Opher, you and your cohorts seem to see “tipping points” everywhere, and nothing but bad coming from any change, human caused or not. Where did you get those ideas from? What are you all so afraid of? Myself, what I see is a bunch of boys crying “wolf!” And, having several times looked for hard evidence of a wolf and found none, my bullshit meter is triggered.

        And what “incentives” would you use to reduce population, and how would that differ from using or threatening force against them? Forced sterilization a la Sanjay Gandhi, or the eugenics movement? Or a repeat of the discredited Chinese one child policy? In any case, my usual retort to anyone that suggests population control is “you go first.”

        But I do agree with David Attenborough that the way to bring down population growth is to get rid of poverty in the third world. This is hard, because it means first bringing down the elites in those countries. Then it means letting them industrialize, and allowing them a fair market. Yet you and your green comrades want quite the opposite – you want to suffocate and destroy our Western industrial civilization!

      2. There is no way that you can compare now to Roman times. A world population of 300 million can be well-sustained by an environment rich in animals and fish. Life was easy. Land was fertile.
        We now have 8 billion people. The populations of animals and fish have been severely depleted, soil is depleted, space is running out for agriculture.
        I think you need to look at the figures for forests, fresh water, populations of insects and animals, pollution levels and fish. The crisis is real.
        I can only conclude that a. you haven’t travelled much around the world to see the devastation b. you haven’t read about what the world used to be like just two hundred years ago c. you do not understand very much about ecology and biology.
        I do not want to do away with Western technology. Far from it. I want to utilise it to create a sustainable future. We have the technology to do that.
        With a smaller population we can quite easily create a situation where we can all have a good standard of life (world-wide) and live in harmony with nature – not to its detriment.
        The real problem is not environmentalists – it is runaway capitalism creating gross inequality – robbing us all of a good standard of life.

  3. Well Opher, the smaller world population is coming, unless something changes very radically. The UK fertility rate is down to 1.7 or 1.87, depending on whose figures you believe. Well below replacement level (2.1), either way. It’s even lower for Europe as a whole. According to the Population Reference Bureau, only in Africa is the fertility rate still above around 2.3. And the “solution” to that is exactly what I said earlier; let them industrialize and become prosperous!

    But you and I have very different understandings when it comes to capitalism. In the restricted sense – ownership of means of production by individuals and voluntarily formed groups – capitalism is the only just economic system! “Just” meaning that what people get out matches what they put in. In any other system, the politically powerful will use their power to take resources away from those who earn them, either for themselves or for re-distribution to their cronies. That’s the worst kind of inequality – inequality of political power, which leads to economic injustice. You seem to think that’s what “capitalism” is. But I don’t agree.

    And I have indeed travelled a fair bit around the world and seen different kinds of ecosystem. I’ve walked in Indonesian mountain forests, driven across arid Australian semi-desert, bicycled through a swarm of grasshoppers and butterflies in Nebraska, and edged my way around a huge swarm of bees in Wiltshire less than two years ago. I’ve noticed how much small wildlife there is around during an “Indian summer” in France in October, or on a warm August day during a cool summer in England. I’ve also noticed how much populations vary from season to season, both up and down. From my own observation, I don’t see that things have changed much if at all since I was a child. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but only by hard evidence and facts.

    1. The politically powerful are controlled by those with wealth. Those with wealth invest for profit. Capitalism is all about making money out of your investment. It works well if the workforce are involved and share profits. It does not work well if corners are cut on health, safety and environmental standards in order to increase profits and the workers’ pay is suppressed in order to increase the investor’s income.
      Unfortunately, with A/I and the third world, investors are maximising their profits at the expense of workers and the environment. They are exploiting people. Capitalism needs controlling. The inequality is obscene.
      As for the environment you are simply wrong. The evidence is very definite – populations of insects, fish and mammals have crashed dramatically. It is so obvious when you look around you. The swallows, swifts, hedgehogs, grasshoppers, butterflies, bees, lizards, and all manner of flying insects are a small remnant of what used to be in my childhood. Abroad it is even worse. As much as 80% of the world’s forests have been destroyed or irreparably degraded. Our ancient forests are looted every day to supply cheap timber and wood products to the world. The price for this destruction is escalating climate change, biodiversity loss and community displacement.
      That has been starkly evident where-ever I have travelled around the worlds. Flying over the devastation in Australia and the Amazon was distressing. The overfishing on the Mekong was horrifying. The pollution everywhere is disgusting.
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature
      Nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, encompassing almost 4,400 species around the world, have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2020.
      But, of course, you, like Trump, refuse to look at scientific data regarding the environment. You have made your mind up and know best.

      1. Opher, what is wrong with investing in private industries, products and services? Better than “investing” in bureaucracies, politics and wars, no? And how are these investors exploiting people? I can see how company bigwigs can exploit their workers; but if that is what is happening, they are the ones at fault, not the investors.

        In any case, it appears to me that your position on capitalism is no more thought through than “socialism good, capitalism bad.” It isn’t even that you have “made your mind up and know best.” Like a religionist, you have just swallowed someone else’s creed whole! And your use of phrases like “needs to be controlled” concerns me. No human being needs to be controlled; in fact, we neednot to be controlled by others, in order to fulfil our potential. You have shown no valid arguments against capitalism – in the narrow sense, as per my last comment – at all.

        And you really aren’t going to get anywhere by referring me to anything from the WWF. If you were trying to argue against a religionist, who gave you references to his own “holy” books, would you even bother to look at them? What I need in order to make any assessment is specific, checkable evidence of the claimed problems, and specific identification of how the problems came about, and who (individual or group of humans) was responsible.

        Interestingly, I noticed that not long after the date of the Guardian article you linked to, the UN’s “IPBES” released a big and alarming report – see here: https://www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment. This looks like an exact parallel to the IPCC’s assessment reports; I smell political hype and pseudo-scientific fraud, just as happened with the IPCC. In fact, the chairman of IPBES used to be, 20 years ago, the chairman of IPCC! That’s a giveaway. Over 12 years now, I have looked into the “global warming” issue in detail, and determined to my own satisfaction that the much-hyped accusation that human emissions of carbon dioxide are adversely affecting the planet is unproven; and, almost certainly, false and a deliberate fabrication. So, why should I expect the accusations on species and biodiversity and such like to be anything different?

      2. I’ve nothing against private enterprise – as long as it doesn’t exploit workers, damage the environment or exploit the product purchasers. I prefer to have cooperatives where the workforce share in the profits and thus have incentive. I do not like the idea of private ownership of essential services – water, power, transport. I think that should be done efficiently, on a big scale, centrally, without people taking a slice of the profits and putting prices up for those receiving the services.
        We are seeing how capitalism works during this pandemic. Companies making a fortune out of vaccines, PPE, and chemicals for track and trace. Selfish and greedy. Exploiting a need.
        Shows me that the pharmaceutical companies should be run by government for the people not profit.
        No I don’t suppose any information on ecology or the environment would be worthy. The only thing you’d believe is rubbish put out by Trump and Big Business who want to continue logging, mining and raising cattle for big bucks, who will happily frack, burn and pollute until catastrophe occurs.
        A while back you were assuring me that this covid was becoming weaker and lockdown was a mistake. Don’t catch it now. The hospitals are full. There’s no ventilators. Police are having to drive the ambulances.

  4. Opher, I too like the idea of co-operatives. As long as they are voluntary, of course, and people can leave if they’re not working properly. This is a natural extension of one of the older forms of economic organization, the partnership. But it does need to be set up carefully, to stop some of its members ripping off others. Companies, too, find it hard to rip off their people, as long as there is a free market in which they can seek alternatives if their current job isn’t working. It is when governments and company bosses start colluding that the problems really start.

    I am totally opposed to you on ownership of essential services. If the state owns such services, they can easily become politicized, and people who are not “politically correct” – like smokers, or obese people – may be denied services they need, and have paid for! Also, if these things are in private hands, and a company fails to deliver them properly, there is the possibility of a mass walk-away by their customers, and someone else will take over. If the state is involved, that option isn’t there.

    On pharmaceuticals, you and I are closer than you probably think. Big Pharma is notorious for price gouging. The classic case of that was in the USA a few years ago with colchicine, an anti-gout drug I need to take sometimes. The price went up by a factor of 50 overnight! But government was also at fault. The FDA was conducting a war on “unapproved” drugs, including those which have been used since before the FDA even existed. (Colchicine has been used for 3,500 years!) The first company that got FDA approval for their version of it then used the patent system to block out their competitors, and could jack up the price as high as they wanted.

    And yes, the coronavirus vaccine companies must be licking their chops at the money they can rake in. But government is actively helping them cut corners. Pfizer has even managed to get itself immunity from prosecution in the UK for anything that goes wrong with their vaccine! As I’ve said, it’s collusion that is the problem, not capitalism.

    I don’t believe what either Trump or big business say. All I will believe in any contentious matter is hard evidence, and rational deductions from it. I do, of course, tend to disbelieve anyone that has a political agenda. You already know my position on pollution, that the polluter must compensate the victims. As to the other activities, if they aren’t harming anyone, then I don’t want to tell them what to do or not to do.

    And finally, COVID and lockdowns. Back in August, it did indeed look as if the virus was getting weaker. And I didn’t say lockdowns had been a mistake; I said there was no hard evidence that they made a significant difference, compared to what would have happened without them. Since then, of course, the virus itself has changed course; catching out, not only me, but SAGE and even the dreaded Neil Ferguson too. In recent papers I have clarified my view as, basically: some individual lockdown measures have worked in most countries they have been tried in, some in some but not others, and some (including mask-wearing) don’t seem to have any beneficial effect at all.

    Looking on the maps of recent cases by borough (this one looks good: https://electionmaps.uk/covid19-tier-map) I see that new cases per 100,000 in my borough and the ones to the south of it roughly doubled between December 29th and January 5th. Whereas those to the north and east have new cases still rising, but at a slower rate than before. Hopefully everything will be a bit clearer by the end of this month.

    1. I’m glad we agree on cooperatives. They seem to work in Germany.
      I think it would be easy to build in legal statements to prevent any abuse of public services. I cannot see that water gas and electricity would be cut off for anyone who was a smoker, overweight or voted Tory. Though maybe the latter might not be a bad idea.
      You might not believe what Trump or Farage say but many many people do – and you do believe the global warming deniers.

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