A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough – Book Review

Before even watching the documentary last year I knew I wanted to read this. I’m a big Attenborough fan so naturally was drawn to it and any book that can guide us to avoiding climate disaster is a must read in my opinion. I received the book as a Christmas present from my parents and it immediately bumped almost everything on my TBR!

So what’s it all about and why should you read it if you’ve already watched the documentary? (If you haven’t watched the documentary, please pause reading this, add it to your watch list and return.)

As can be expected with all written companions to TV shows, the book goes into much more detail than the documentary whilst following the same clear path. To begin the book follows Attenborough’s journey from a child interested in fossils all the way to the eminent TV presenter he is today, along the way showing how the earth has been severely impacted by human behaviour in the space of just one lifetime, all be it an extraordinary one.

Part 2 then succinctly explains what we can expect from the rest of the 21st century if we continue on our current trajectory. This includes rising temperatures, which will cause sea level to rise and displace many communities, whilst also making some places uninhabitable from the heat and consequently an increase in forest fires. On top of this species will become extinct, from coral reefs to pollinators, both of which are vital to our ecosystem. More topically, there is a growing likelihood that there will be more pandemics like COVID-19 and worse. This all paints a pretty bleak picture and while I was reading this section I did feel a lot of despair, but as Attenborough explains, we are in a wonderful position to change all of this, because for the first time in history we know what we are doing wrong, how that will affect us, and most importantly what we can do to turn things around before it is too late.

The penultimate section digs deeper into these solutions discussing the rewilding of land and sea; reassessing our measures of success; converting to clean energy; using less space to allow more room for nature to recover; planning for peak human and building more balanced lives, because what is good for nature is also good for us. Just like the documentary the book uses lots of existing examples, such as the world’s largest solar farm in Morocco and no-fish zones in Palau, to display how these changes are not only possible, but hugely successful.

To conclude the message is, that we should be cautiously hopefully, the solutions are not waiting to be found, we already know what they are, we just need to implement them. However, the caveat on this hope is that it cannot be just a handful of countries who act, this must be a global effort. We in the UK are by no means leaders in this field, so it’s not a case of moaning about other countries not getting involved. Tell your MP that we don’t only need change, but that you want it. The bigger the public movement for climate action the more pressure there will be on the government to act, and not just to do the bare minimum, but to make it part of their manifestos and campaigns.

Conclusion: READ THIS BOOK! Apologies for the all caps, but this is an issue that effects each and everyone of us and we have about 9 years to make a difference. The more we know and talk about this subject to our friends and family, the more people will care about it and make changes in their lives too. Even more importantly, this will build public awareness to the point where governments can no longer ignore the crisis we face. I hope you enjoy reading this book, learning about nature and all that it does for us and I hope that it inspires you to make the changes you are able to in your lives to build this movement and bring about the change that we so desperately need.

I realise the above sounds a little preachy so I would like to add that I am by no means perfect, I am relatively new to this area of reading, but what I have learnt in this short space of time is the urgency needed in this fight. As is so often quoted on social media “we don’t need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Each change you make, no matter how small will make a difference and in the long run make it easier for others to make these changes too. You don’t need to commit to going vegan overnight or move to the country and only eat the veg that you grow (although this does sound lovely), just try one thing at a time, switch your light bulbs to L.E.D. ones or try non dairy milk in your tea, it might not feel like much, but it all makes a difference.

Rating: ★★★★★

Have you read A Life on Our Planet? If so what did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if the book prompted you to make any changes in your life. Even if you haven’t read the book do you have any tips on sustainable swaps? Let me know below!

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