David Attenborough blasted early climate change documentary: ‘Mad!’

David Attenborough admits his generation ‘failed’ in 2020

The naturalist’s new show A Perfect Planet has warned of the dangers humans pose to the animal kingdom through our contribution to climate change. Sir David’s BBC documentary showed heartbreaking footage, including from last year’s wildfires that left several koala bears badly burned in Australia. But in a surprising twist, the 94-year-old warned that pushing the risks of climate change could “turn-off” viewers.

Sir David admitted that it was difficult to communicate the threat of global warming to the public without scaring people or leaving them feeling helpless.

He felt it would be “irresponsible to ignore” climate change and that there was a “responsibility” to inform viewers.

But The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts questioned whether Sir David’s documentaries were “too light-handed”.

This followed the warnings of many environmental journalists and agencies.

In the 2015 book, The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert warned that one-quarter of mammals, one-fifth of reptiles and one-sixth of birds were “heading towards extinction”.

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Previously, Sir David dismissed the criticism about his documentaries not hitting viewers hard enough.

In 2018, he said: “These are not ecological programmes, they are not proselytising programmes [and] they are not alarmist programmes. 

“What they are is a new form of wildlife filmmaking.”

Sir David gave the remarks ahead of the release of his series Dynasties, which he considered impossible to film.

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The show, which was originally proposed by Mike Gunton, left Sir David astonished as he felt the concept was “mad”.

He wanted to address the issues of climate change more bluntly, as well as refusing to “fabricate anything” and produce the show in just two years.

Sir David recalled: “When Mike first talked to me about it I said, ‘You’re mad.’”

He argued that it would be impossible to film in such a short time as they couldn’t “know for sure” that something would happen.

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Sir David warned: “At the end of it, what if nothing happens? That’s a huge financial investment.”

Mr Gunton also wanted to focus on certain animals with “box-office appeal” to illustrate their warnings about climate change.

The documentary showed how animals were becoming endangered because of “human pressures”.

Mr Watts noted that it “especially” focussed on the “intrusion into their territory” in addition to the other struggles presented by climate change. 

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He added that humans were “adding to an already tough struggle for survival”.

Sir David hoped “the wonder of nature” could help more people care about environmental issues.

He said: “Some spin-off is that if they appreciate the wonder, then they care about it and that’s when it brings you to your other mission.”

Sir David believed there would be an increased likelihood in people wanting “to care and conserve” and “become active in saving the planet”.

Last year, he warned that “the moment of crisis has come” during an interview about climate change with the BBC. 

Sir David hoped the devastating wildfires in Australia, the US and other nations would make people see the dangers of climate change.

He said: “We have been putting things off for year after year.”

Sir David also rejected false claims that human activity had nothing to do with an increase in wildfires and branded theories “palpable nonsense”.

Sir David Attenborough’s new series A Perfect Planet airs its final episode at 8pm Sunday on BBC One.

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