David Attenborough on Importance of BBC Earth's 'A Perfect Planet'

Sony BBC Earth's new show, A Perfect Planet, will air in India on 8 March.

5 min read
 <p>Sir David Attenborough speaks about Sony BBC Earth's A Perfect PLanet.</p>

Sony BBC Earth's new show, A Perfect Planet, highlights the natural forces that shape life on earth and their inherent connections. The show is set to premiere on 8 March at 9 pm in India.

Ahead of A Perfect Planet's release historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, who has lent his voice as the narrator, speaks about the show, what has stayed with him while shooting for it & more.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:


Why is it important, now more than ever, to draw attention to the incredible forces of nature that shape our planet?

David Attenborough: Because I think everybody understands now, worldwide, that we are at a crucial point. Our planet is poisoned, close to real big disasters. We can stop them. But if we need to stop them, we've got to understand what they are and how they work. And that's what this series does.

A new dominant force is now shaping our planet. And you say in the final episode, this is the most important story of our time. Tell us about the final episode - humans.

David Attenborough: What can I say? The first thing that I keep reminding myself of is that there are three times as many human beings on this planet as well, than when I first made a television program. I mean, this is not something that happened over eons of history. It's right now, it's happening. And if we don't sort out how we deal with it, we’re in big trouble. The answer is, of course, we can talk about it. That's enough. We all behave in certain ways. But to start with, you've got to recognize the problem. And that's what this shows.

From the making of 'A Perfect Planet', is there something that really stayed with you about the planets and our place in it that you'd like to convey to our audience?

David Attenborough: For me, I have to say, I shouldn't really say this because we've been talking about it so much. But actually, that Flamingo sequence is one of the most memorable sequences I've seen on television. Shot under extraordinary, certainly difficult circumstances. And it’s impossible not to identify with these poor little chicks who have to make it in the middle of this appalling situation, making it to the edge to get away from the nest in the centre. But apart from that, the series has been filmed so beautifully. The use of drones, that is to say, cameras can take you up into the sky and see whatever you want to see. It’s so skilful. And the pictures are so indelibly planted on the mind. That's what I think about the whole series. It's in the first program, so I shouldn't say it, because I want you to stay on. But my goodness, it's extraordinary. What it costs in order to get it is also extraordinary.

What are your thoughts about zoos and aquariums when it comes to saving animals and conservation? And what do you think about the ethical argument surrounding moving animals from their natural environment, putting them in enclosures? The disparity or the contradiction between needing to safeguard them and putting them in captivity?

David Attenborough: If you’re talking about animals that have reduced to less than a 100, then the reason they’ve done that is because there is something in their environment that has made it impossible for them to survive. Then you could either sit back and say that they can look after themselves or you’ve got to do something active. New Zealand, for example, has done some extraordinary work with saving species. For example, if you look at the Arabian Oryx, the Arabian was almost extinct. It was only saved because people realised that zoos in America, New York as well as private collectors had got individual animals, and they bought them all together and created a breeding stock. They grew in numbers and are now re-released in the wild. So there are cases of real urgency wherein animals can justify being kept in zoos. That’s an extreme case of course. To generalise about animals of all kinds is impossible. There are some animals that thrive in captivity, some that don’t. Depends on how big they are, or what their habits are. Eagles should not be kept in zoos, but there are monkeys or squirrels and aquaria that do very well indeed. It's important that public at large should be aware of the reality of these things and get close and see what they smell like, what they sound like, what the reality of the thing is. I justify zoos, providing they are scientific, providing they are selective about what they keep, and they keep them to the best possible standards.

If there was one change of behaviour you could ask humans to action to best reduce the impact of climate change, what would you ask us to change?

David Attenborough: To reduce the demands each one of us make on the planet, our demands in terms of how much food we eat, what we throw away. Our demands in how we leave our place, how we use our power, to make sure we don’t produce too much carbon dioxide. Just with some restraint with how we treat the world around us. If all of us on Earth were to do this, our problems would be solved.

With all the travels and places you’ve visited, which one would you not like to go back to and why? And which one has impacted you the most and you’d go back to over and over again?

David Attenborough: The place that I don’t need to go back to (laughs) is the South Pole. My dear friend Allister took me to both poles on this Earth, and I’m very, very grateful but I don’t need to go back. Thank you very much indeed because there isn’t a single human being there! And well, the place that I wish I went back to over and over again would be a coral reef. I’m an underwater swimmer, but you don’t have to be a great underwater swimmer to see the miracle of a flourishing coral reef. The sheer magnitude of the number of different wonderful, beautiful things, you have to a be a very good naturalist indeed to be able to identify them all. The sorrow for me is that coral reefs are likely to be one of the first casualties of a warming planet.

How important do you think 'A Perfect Planet' is at this critical time? We’re in a pandemic, we’re taking stock of so many things about how we do life here on this planet and our place in it. How important do you think the timing of this series is, David?

David Attenborough: The remarkable thing about it is that it made a lot of us suddenly become aware of the natural world in a way that we have not been before. In our busy lives making money around, moving here there and everywhere, and now with many of us stuck at home, some of us are lucky enough to have gardens. And birdsong. This pandemic started last spring. I have never heard more birdsong in my life than I did. We realize our dependence emotionally and intellectually on the natural world like we’ve never done before.

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