‘A Life on Our Planet’: Attenborough at His Finest


Newly released, A life on our Planet, showcases a naturalist legend’s journey in fighting for Earth’s biodiversity


By James Braham

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 11 of VARSITY News.


Sir David Attenborough has emphasised the need for humans to fight for Earth’s biodiversity in his most recent Netflix documentary A Life on Our Planet. Sustainability is what drives the message of the insightful documentary.



At 94 years of age, Attenborough has witnessed and produced some remarkable footage of nature and all of her aspects. His career has spanned over more than 60 years, and it is in A Life on Our Planet where he conveys a devastating reality for society; how the planet’s biodiversity has significantly degenerated before his very eyes.



The narrative attributes comparative, environmental statistics to the various time period’s over Attenborough’s lifetime.  From his earliest days as a naturalist, the impressive footage shows a young Attenborough studying and interacting with gorilla’s, to encountering various species of flora. To implicate the depth of this timeline, when he first started out as a young producer, international air travel was a brand-new reality to the human species. It is the fanatic résumé of this colossal explorer which has epitomised the desperate need to change the way in which we treat our surrounding environments. Time is running out.



Directors Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey are able to direct a focused piece on the area surrounding Chernobyl to symbolise the growth that an area can have without humans interfering in and destroying it. They pan the camera back to Chernobyl, to show that there is now wildlife growing within the region due to its vacant position of human interaction. It is the smallest sign to show how change can happen.



Throughout the documentary, the illustration of stark contrasts in photography is crafted to represent opposite ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, we have imagery of flourishing rainforests, and on the other, we see “uniform rows of oil palms planted for profit”. It signifies a human problem in relation to building the ‘machinery’, which ignorantly destroys the ecological diversity of the planet. The imagery used perpetuates an ugly truth to an oblivious eye.

Attenborough will not be around for the future disasters that the human species will experience. He has used his platform to express the urgency to sustain our global ecosystems, to break down human traditional endeavour with industry, and to develop an ecological footprint which encompasses what it means to let nature flourish in all its splendour.


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