David Attenborough has betrayed the living world he loves

(The Guardian, 7 Nov 2018) By downplaying our environmental crisis, the presenter’s BBC films have generated complacency, confusion and ignorance.

Knowingly creating a false impression of the world: this is a serious matter. It is more serious still when the BBC does it, and yet worse when the presenter is “the most trusted man in Britain”. But, as his latest interview with the Observer reveals, David Attenborough sticks to his line that fully representing environmental issues is a “turn-off”.

His new series, Dynasties, will mention the pressures affecting wildlife, but Attenborough makes it clear that it will play them down. To do otherwise, he suggests, would be “proselytising” and “alarmist”. His series will be “a great relief from the political landscape which otherwise dominates our thoughts”. In light of the astonishing rate of collapse of the animal populations he features, alongside most of the rest of the world’s living systems – and when broadcasting as a whole has disgracefully failed to represent such truths – I don’t think such escapism is appropriate or justifiable.

It is not proselytising or alarmist to tell us the raw truth about what is happening to the world, however much it might discomfit us. Nor do I believe that revealing the marvels of nature automatically translates into environmental action, as the executive producer of Dynasties claims. I’ve come to believe it can have the opposite effect.

For many years, wildlife film-making has presented a pristine living world. It has created an impression of security and abundance, even in places afflicted by cascading ecological collapse. The cameras reassure us that there are vast tracts of wilderness in which wildlife continues to thrive. They cultivate complacency, not action.

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The Guardian, 7 Nov 2018: David Attenborough has betrayed the living world he loves