United Nations Award for David Attenborough

When Sir David Attenborough was a boy, he spent much of his spare time hammering in an abandoned quarry in the English countryside. Its prey was fossil ammonites – spiral mollusks that lived in the time of the dinosaurs.

To young Attenborough, fossils were like hidden treasures that no one had seen before for tens of millions of years.

The physical world will hold him in awe for the rest of his life.

Today, the 95-year-old Attenborough is arguably the most famous and natural TV presenter in the world. In his career, which began in the early days of television, he has written and presented several documentaries with great influence on the state of the planet, including the ten-year series Life.

“A man with insatiable curiosity”

Before the New York Times called him “a voice from God” and “a man of insatiable curiosity,” Attenborough spent 70 years revealing the beauty of the natural world and pointing out the threats he faces.

“If the world really needs to be saved, then Attenborough has done more to save it than anyone else who has ever lived,” wrote ecologist and author Simon Barnes.

The United Nations recognized Attenborough’s huge impact on the global environmental movement by awarding him the United Nations Defenders of the Earth Award for Lifetime Achievement. This award is the highest UN environmental award and is given to those who have dedicated their lives to overcoming crises such as climate change, species extinction and environmental pollution.

“You have been an amazing inspiration to so many people,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), as she presented the award. “You were a proponent of the planet long before most others and you continue to influence us all.”

Stages of a great journey

In 1947, Attenborough graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in natural sciences, but soon discovered that he had no capacity for research work. So he came to the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) just as television was just entering people’s homes.

It first appeared on screens on December 21, 1954 in the Zoo Quest series, which introduced the British to exotic creatures such as orangutans and Komodo screen lizards.

A talented host and presenter, Attenborough quickly rose through the ranks of the BBC and eventually took over the second channel of BBC Two, where he presented Monty Python’s Flying Circus among other series.

But the job was not for him, and in 1973 Attenborough left the administration to return to filmmaking.

“A miracle of nature that takes your breath away”

The result was the famous series, presented in 1979, Life on Earth. This is an epic story about the history of the living world – from the first germs to humanity.

The series took three years to complete and Attenborough traveled 1.5 million miles during filming. Because of its breadth, Life on Earth has redefined science fiction, reaching about 500 million people.

Over the next three decades, Attenborough produced and produced eight more epic documentaries, drawing the world’s attention to what he called “a breathtaking marvel of nature.”



UNEP / L. Kitololo

Portrait of Sir David Attenborough.

Nature needs protection

As his career progressed, Attenborough saw the destruction of the natural world. Under the onslaught of rapidly evolving humanity, nature receded. Human activity has changed three-quarters of the Earth’s surface and endangered one million species.

“While we are extremely strong today, it is equally clear that tomorrow we will be even stronger,” he said at the end of The Living Planet in 1984. “Obviously we can destroy the world. Further survival [Земли] it is now in our hands. “

Attenborough’s films have shown the world that wildlife is not infinite, that it is fragile and in need of protection, and that separating humanity from nature is dangerous.

Last year, in his 90s, Attenborough spoke to world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland.

“We are already in trouble,” he said. Is this how our story should end? Are we doomed, because of this extremely human nature, not to see the big picture in the pursuit of short-term goals?

There is an opportunity to fix things

Despite such pessimistic statements, Attenborough is convinced that humanity can still repair the damage done to nature.

“It’s not all disaster and gloom,” he said in his 2020 film Life on Our Planet, referring to his career. – We have the opportunity to improve, to change the current course of development and to become again a species that is in balance with nature. “All we need is the desire to do it.”

In the same film he offered conditions of reconciliation with nature. It focused on raising living standards in poorer countries to curb population growth, using clean energy such as solar and wind energy, eating more plant-based foods that are easier on the planet and moving away from fossil fuels.

“If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us,” he said. “It’s time for our species to stop balancing life on our planet with nature and start thriving.”

Deep passion for the natural world

For decades, Attenborough has been approached by many political leaders in search of solutions to global crises.

In 2015, he visited the White House to speak with US President Barack Obama. Obama asked Attenborough what sparked his deep fascination with the natural world.

“I have never met a child who was not interested in nature,” he replied, perhaps reminiscent of the days when he hunted fossils in the English countryside. “The only question is when and why does he lose it over time?”

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