A review by elisabethjordan
A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, by David Attenborough

5.0

I have always loved Attenborough and am so glad that I got to read about all of his observations and thoughts about our planet in this book. Because we all grew up watching the films he narrated, reading the books he wrote, and listening to him talk, he has SUCH strong credibility in the public eye. I do not think he wasted that credibility in tackling his mission statement. Many people, including myself, hold what he says regarding nature quite highly, so I’m glad he shared his story in this way.

I’ve seen most of his documentaries, including the one made for this book, and have followed him for a long time. This book reflects upon Attenborough’s life, what he’s seen, and how that affects people now. And it’s quite uncomfortable to read about. He first goes through the beauty he saw in his young life and how corrupted that beauty already was, and he chronicles the earth’s demise from there on, even going into our future with backed up the likely projection for the next hundred years. Then he backs up and describes in great detail the path that people can take to avoid the horrible mistakes that are projected to occur if people do not adapt.

Attenborough maintains an understanding for the human geography of the earth too. He is very self aware of the varying levels of privilege in the world, along with cultures that were made out of practices that need to fade away for the good of nature. He approaches these things respectfully and practically, offering options with proven examples on how change is possible— and even quite beneficial— for the people affected.

On many occasions, he also looks at other cultures and sees the great things they are doing, and the bad things they are doing, and suggests ways we can all help each-other. One of the most powerful points that Attenborough made (after describing why the birthing rate needs to be going down—I’ll let you read to find out why), was that women in developing countries often have more children because they do not get as many opportunities as women in first world countries. It was found that women in first world countries were more likely to have less children. After describing this, he simply said that there needs to be much stronger efforts in supporting women in those developing countries in order to naturally reduce the global birth rate.

Attenborough’s greatest strength in this book was his maintenance of hope while sharing dire news. Without his hope, I could easily see how the reader may have gone left discouraged with nothing to take away but “wow that was depressing—what is even the point in trying.” Attenborough showed us HOW to fix the problems that he laid out.

His other strength was the pure earnestness of this book. I listened to the audiobook (because it was narrated by DAVID ATTENBOROUGH duh) and it shone through even more there. The reader can really tell that he believes with his whole heart what he is saying. He believes that people CAN make a change, given the knowledge and time to do so, and he wanted to make that possible by offering us his witness statement of his life where he got to see a lot more than many ever will.

I think this is a great first book to dive into and learn about what is going on in our natural world on a global scale, and it really humbles you as a person. We are the stewards of these ecosystems, and we have the power for destruction, or restoration.