David Attenborough, the legendary broadcaster known for his close interaction and encounters with wildlife across the globe, believes the “seeds of damage” that have already been planted will lead to the destruction of the natural world within a generation.
Delivering the Distinguished Chancellor’s Lecture at the University of Leicester on Monday, Attenborough – the brother of late Richard Attenborough, the Oscar-winning director of “Gandhi” – hoped the human race “will slowly come to its senses”.
“We have planted seeds of damage for the future – but the youth of today provides hope for salvation…If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves,” he said.
“We can only hope that the human race will slowly come to its senses and perhaps for the first time since recorded history began the human race – homo sapiens – will bury its differences and work together to try and protect the one essential powerful thing we have in common – which is the natural world.”
According to him, the natural world has been damaged and deteriorated during the past 50 years. He also spoke of the extinction of several species in recent decades.
“We can’t turn the clock back. I wish we could. The best we can hope to do is to slow down the damage. I am afraid it is the natural world that will pay the price – but it is not just the natural world that pays the price – we pay the price.”
He added, “Every mouthful of food we eat comes from the natural world. Every lungful of air we take comes – in its oxygen content – from the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.”
Speaking on the demise of species, particularly the giant panda, he said: “What a terrible indictment of human beings that we should have living among us a creature that has evolved over tens of millions of years of evolution and we, just because we didn’t care, let it die out. That would be a symbol of how little we care about the natural world of which we are the inheritors.
“And how terrible it would be if an elephant – which has in many ways the same precarious hold on existence that the giant panda has – how terrible it would be if we could look at the next generation and say we let this extraordinary wonder and beauty disappear because we didn’t care. That surely would be a terrible crime for the human race.”