David Attenborough on Our Planet: ‘We need the world to pay attention’

Naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough on how his new series Our Planet is sending an urgent message about human impact on the environment

The latest David Attenborough wildlife documentary series – and his first for Netflix – opens with an iconic photograph of the Earth, as seen from space. It’s an appropriate image with which to start his latest venture, which highlights the fragility of many of the habitats on our planet.

As well as sending out a warning about the impact of human activity on our world, it also celebrates the remarkable wildlife that inhabits these endangered environments, from the Arctic wilderness to the jungles of South America and the world’s oceans.

Here, David Attenborough tells us about his new Netflix series Our Planet…

TV Times: What are your favourite moments from Our Planet?

David Attenborough: “You will see sequences you never even dreamed of! For instance, there’s a bird about the size of a sparrow called a blue manakin. It has a complicated courtship dance which is most entertaining, because the males form little teams like trapeze artists.”

TVT: What about the footage of a collapsing iceberg?

DA: “I felt astonishment, not just that it was happening, but that we managed to film it! If you’ve flown in a helicopter, you’ll know one of the perils is the air currents you could fly into. If you’ve an iceberg the size of the Empire State building collapsing, that’s going to cause a great disturbance!”

TVT: What does Our Planet tell us about conservation?

DA: “We have become the greatest threat to the health of our home, but there’s still time to address the challenges if we act now. We need the world to pay attention, and Our Planet has brought together some of the world’s best film-makers and conservationists to tell this important story.”

TVT: Does the current generation bear a lot of responsibility for what’s happening to the planet?

DA: “We do, and the people who are most aware of it are, thank God, young people. And by golly, it makes you feel ashamed because it’s their world, and they’re the ones who will have to save it. We ought to feel jolly guilty.”

TVT: How can people make a difference in their daily lives?

DA: “I’m more careful about fuel and heating and turning lights off. My view is that the enemy is waste. When you see what’s thrown away, it’s shameful, really. But we can’t live in a way that makes no demands on the planet whatsoever.”

TVT: How has conservation changed in your lifetime?

DA: “I’ve been active in the conservation movement since the 1950s. We started off thinking it was about saving the giant panda or whatever. But it’s the ecosystems that we have to save – whole communities of animals and plants that are the cogs in the way the entire system works.”

TVT: Do you still enjoy being so busy with work?

DA: “I’m 92, and an awful lot of people my age can’t walk or can’t remember things. I can’t believe my luck that I should be able to go on making these programmes. How long I will go on, who knows? But while I can, I will – for as long as people want me to.”

TVT: Does your job make you more aware of dwindling wildlife?

DA: “Oddly enough, I’m probably less aware than most, because if you make shows about wildlife, you go where it’s richest. But occasionally the disappearance is part of the story. If you go to a barrier reef where it’s bleached, as I have done, that is the most devastating experience.”

Our Planet, narrated by David Attenborough, is available on Netflix from Friday 5 April

Main David Attenborough picture: DAVID HARTLEY/REX/Shutterstock