I have just watched the last, highly emotional episode of yet another David Attenborough/BBC natural world series “Blue Planet 2”.
Like so many people I feel that I have almost grown up with Attenborough, following his early efforts to find animals for London Zoo and then being enthralled and educated about evolution in the path-breaking series “Life On Earth” and watching the technological developments that allowed for more and more fascinating glimpses into this wonderful planet that we live on and the teeming but hugely threatened lifeforms within it.
Attenborough has gone from being a presenter to a figurehead of the environmental movement that has sought to correct the many problems that our lifestyles have inflicted upon the planet we live in. His programmes have more and more sought to show the effects of pollution and climate change on our planets flora and fauna.
We have gone from oohs and ahs at looking at the pretty animals and how amusing and interesting they are to a feeling of dread that our future and theirs is severely in doubt.
This is best summed up in the following photograph from an episode in the series
This picture shows a pilot whale. On her back is her dead baby that she refuses to let go of. Most probably the baby has died from her infected milk. The cause of the infection? The intake of poisonous plastic substances in her food. The series makes the point quite clearly that we are polluting and destroying our oceans lifeforms by dumping masses of plastics waste into our rivers and oceans.
After 50 or so years of watching Attenborough documentaries, I have , like him, gone from wide eyed fascination to anger at just what we, as a species, have done to our wonderful blue planet.
But the last programme was not totally pessimistic. It shows how the Norwegians have introduced laws to stop overfishing and how this has resulted in huge increases in herring and other fish that were threatened with extinction only thirty or so years ago. It also showed us some wonderful people who have almost single-handedly transformed the environment where they live. One such hero is Len Peters, who comes from a small fishing village in Trinidad in the Caribbean.
Len grew up in an area where Leatherback Turtles come out from the sea to lay their eggs in the beautiful sandy beaches. These ancient reptiles, which Attenborough tells us in the commentary, go back to the age of the dinosaurs, are slow ands lumbering when they come onto the land and they are at risk of hunters.
Len tells us that he grew up in a family where the turtles were hunted for their meat and skin. Thirty years ago the turtle numbers were seriously under threat. Len though started a one person campaign to patrol the beaches and protect the turtles as well as replacing their eggs in safer holes further from the sea’s edge where they were easily eaten by predators.
He has taken his campaign to the local community and encouraged environmental tourism to protect the turtles and not destroy them. He goes into schools to give talks about the turtles to the next generation that will hopefully protect them and not destroy them.
The turtle numbers are now rising dramatically. It was stories like these and the Norwegian example that give us a little hope in an otherwise bleak picture.
Maybe, many years ago, a young Len sat in his house in Trinidad and saw a programme from the BBC about preserving wildlife presented by an amazing man called David Attenborough.At aged 91 he is still enthralled by the wonders of our beautiful planet and still fighting to preserve it for future generations.