Sir David Attenborough has warned that “the Garden of Eden is no more”, as he urged political and business leaders from around the world to make a renewed push to tackle climate change before the damage is irreparable.
Speaking at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the 92-year-old naturalist and broadcaster warned that human activity has taken the world into a new era, threatening to undermine civilisation.
“I am quite literally from another age,” Attenborough told an audience of business leaders, politicians and other delegates. “I was born during the Holocene – the 12,000 [year] period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm, and create civilisations.” That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the “globally connected species we are today”. Advertisement
That stability allowed businesses to grow, nations to co-operate and people to share ideas, Attenborough explained, before warning sombrely: “In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed.
“The Holocene has ended. The Garden of Eden is no more. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans,” he declared.
In a stark warning to the world leaders and business chiefs flocking to the WEF this week, Attenborough warned that the only conditions that humans have known are changing fast.
“We need to move beyond guilt or blame, and get on with the practical tasks at hand.”
A survey conducted before the WEF found that environmental threats are now the biggest danger to the global economy, and concern is mounting that co-operation between countries on the issue is breaking down.
Attenborough admitted that even he has been surprised by the speed of the damage caused to the environment during his career making TV programmes showing life on earth.
In response, Attenborough – recently voted Britain’s most trustworthy celebrity – said humans must use their expert problem-solving skills. “If people can truly understand what is at stake, I believe they will give permission for business and governments to get on with the practical solutions,” he told the WEF.
Get it right, he argued, and humans can create a world with clean air and water, unlimited energy and sustainable fish stocks, but only if decisive action is taken now.
“Over the next two years there will be United Nations decisions on climate change, sustainable development and a new deal for nature. Together these will form our species’ plan for a route through the Anthropocene.
“What we do now, and in the next few years, will profoundly affect the next few thousand years,” he added.
Speaking to journalists after his speech, Attenborough warned that economic models needed to change. “Growth is going to come to an end, either suddenly or in a controlled way,” he explained, citing the old joke that anyone who thinks you can have infinite growth in finite circumstances is “either a madman or an economist”.
He is also hopeful that he can change hearts and minds during his trip to Davos, pointing out that some delegates have more power than a nation state. “The enormity of the problem has only just dawned on quite a lot of people … Unless we sort ourselves out in the next decade or so we are dooming our children and our grandchildren to an appalling future.
It has been known for a while that the amount of animal products being eaten is bad for both the welfare of animals and the environment. People cannot consume 12.9bn eggs in the UK each year without breaking a few.
But the extent of the damage, and the amount by which people need to cut back, is now becoming clearer. On Wednesday, the Lancet medical journal published a study that calls for dramatic changes to food production and the human diet, in order to avoid “catastrophic damage to the planet”.
The study sets out the targets for a daily diet to “place consumption within the boundaries of the planet”. They include a reduction in red meat consumption of more than 50%, and a doubling of the intake of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. “But in specific places the changes are stark. North Americans need to eat 84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils. For Europeans, eating 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds meets the guidelines,” wrote The Guardian’s Damian Carrington.
Others have called for even more drastic changes to human diet to be made. Another study, published in Octoberin the journal Nature, estimated that meat consumption had to be reduced by 90% to avoid unsustainable global warming, deforestation and water shortages.
My Weekend treat.
New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists
‘Planetary health diet’ would prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change
Damian Carrington Environment editor
The planetary health diet allows an average of 2,500 calories per day.
The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised. It requires huge cuts in red meat-eating in western countries and radical changes across the world.
The “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population. At the same time, the diet addresses the major role of farming – especially livestock – in driving down meat consumption.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/16/new-plant-focused-diet-would-transform-planets-future-say-scientistsing climate change, the destruction of wildlife and the pollution of rivers and oceans.