From: Reuters
Published April 18, 2008 08:50 AM

Attenborough ends nature TV cycle, fears for future

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - David Attenborough has done more than just about anyone to teach us about our planet.

As he marks the end of his sweeping natural history television series, seen by hundreds of millions of people over 30 years, the British broadcaster is fearful of what the future holds for the Earth and its inhabitants.

"We've come to an end of a particular genre, a particular type of making programs," Attenborough told Reuters, referring to the series that began with "Life on Earth" in 1979 and ended earlier this year with "Life In Cold Blood."

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"You could say that this is a survey of how the world looked and how it may not look the same in 50 years' time."

The series took Attenborough around the world and included memorable scenes like his encounter with mountain gorillas when he whispered to the camera as the animals surrounded him.

It also featured startling images from wildlife that were the result of pioneering camerawork and painstaking research. "Life on Earth" alone was watched by an estimated 500 million people worldwide, according to the BBC.

Attenborough, who began his career with the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1952, said the impact of global warming over the last 50 years meant that making the same programs today would be difficult, if not impossible.

"There are some things in that series that would be very difficult to film again, they are much more difficult to find."

He added that he did not know of a single "major" vertebrate species that had become extinct during his career, but serious risks to plants, animals and humans lay ahead.

"The plain, simple, overwhelming fact of the matter is that since I started making programs, there are three times as many people on the Earth," he said.

"It is inevitable that you are going to make huge inroads into what was wild nature and that process is going on. It's going to get worse before it gets better."

"DEEPLY DEPRESSING"

Attenborough, younger brother of film director Richard, agreed with some scientists' prediction that it was too late to reverse the impact of climate change.

"Whatever we do now the world is going to change. The question is can we slow down those changes or reduce them? One clutches at straws to try and find something in this bleak picture which is not deeply depressing."

Among those straws are the fact that governments are taking the issue seriously and popular awareness of the dangers climate change poses to the environment has spread.

"People recognize that the only conceivable way in which you'll save the life in the sea and the climate in the air is by international agreement," he explained. "It's damned difficult."

His comments came as 17 countries responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions met in Paris to find common ground on how to thrash out a new treaty to fight climate change.

The publicly funded BBC is releasing a DVD box set of four of Attenborough's documentary series to coincide with Earth Day on April 22. The environmental awareness campaign organizes events around the world each year, and dates back to 1970.

Attenborough welcomed popular movements promoting a sustainable environment, saying young people were what counted.

"It's all very well for me crying doom and gloom, but the people who are going to suffer are my grandchildren, and my grandchildren are certainly exorcised about. They are outraged at what's happening to the wild places of the Earth."

At 81, the broadcaster said he was not about to retire, although his globetrotting filmmaking days may be over.

"Next February is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and I am making a program about evolution.

"(There will not be) a lot (of travel) because a great deal of the stuff one wants to show I've filmed. Ever mindful of the license holder's money and my carbon footprint, I'm not getting on to a lot of airplanes."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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