Like many people who watched Sir David Attenborough's new Netflix documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, I was left feeling inspired to live in harmony with the natural world. Environmental activists, like Greta Thunberg, helped to explain the climate crisis to us youngins, but all my motivation to act usually leads me to the question of how? Beyond sustainable beauty and fashion brands and reusable straws and cotton buds, Attenborough shared five practical ways we can all start living sustainably and boost the world's biodiversity in his latest film.
"Nature is our biggest ally and our greatest inspiration," Attenborough says in David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. "We just have to do what nature has always done. It worked out the secret of life long ago. In this world, a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives too. We can solve the problems we now face by embracing this reality. If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us. It's now time for our species to stop simply growing, and instead to establish a life on our planet in balance with nature — to start to thrive."
The 5 Ways We Can Live a More Sustainable Life
- Reducing the global population by working hard to raise people out of poverty, giving everyone access to healthcare, and enabling girls in particular to stay in school for as long as possible. Attenborough says "the trick is to raise the standard of living of the world without increasing our impact on that world; that may sound impossible, but there are ways in which we can do this."
- Move to renewable energy and run our world on the eternal energies of nature — solar, wind, water, and geothermal energy. "Within 20 years, renewables are predicted to be the main source of power, but it can be the only source," Attenborough says. "It's crazy that our banks and our pensions are investing in fossil fuels when these are the very things that are jeopardising the future that we are saving for . . . Renewable energy will be more affordable, cities will be cleaner and quieter, and renewables never run out."
- The living world can't operate without a healthy ocean, and neither can we. "Fishing is the world's greatest wild harvest," Attenborough says, "and if we do it right, it can continue because there is a win-win at play. The healthier the marine habitat, the more fish there will be, and the more there will be to eat. No-fishing zones that cover one-third of our coastal seas could provide us with all the fish we ever need." The UN is currently attempting to create the biggest international no-fishing zone ever, which can transform exhausted waters from being overfished into thriving spaces to help us combat climate change.
- When it comes to land, we must reduce farm lands to make space for wilderness to return, and the quickest and most effective way to do that is to change our diet. "If we all had a largely plant-based diet, we would need only half the land we use at the moment. And because we would be using much of this land to raise plants, we could increase the yield substantially," Attenborough advises.
- Forests are centres of biodiversity, and we must immediately halt deforestation everywhere. "The return of the trees will absorb as much as two-thirds of carbon emissions that has been pumped into the atmosphere by our activities to date," Attenborough says.
Helping the world heal can seem like a mammoth of a task, with many of Attenborough's actionable tips in the hands of large corporations, world governments, and the superrich to invest in sustainable development. But what we've taken away from David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is that we can help lobby for the changes listed above, we can do things like mentor and encourage young girls to stay in school, we can try eating a mostly plant-based diet, and we can be more informed about where our money goes — and what causes it is supporting.