David Attenborough Says His Generation ‘Has Done Terrible Things’ to the Environment
But the efforts of outspoken youth activists are giving him hope.
The youth protesters who have been skipping school to demand radical action on climate change are justified in their outrage, Sir David Attenborough said in a podcast interview on Friday.
“Young people may lack experience but they also have clear sight,” the famed naturalist told host Christiana Figueras, who spearheaded the Paris climate agreement as the head of the UN environment programme in 2015.
Though Attenborough has long advocated for countries to better protect the environment, he said that the window for taking action on climate change is rapidly shrinking. His latest Netflix documentary series, Our Planet, shows how global biodiversity is being threatened by climate change and resource extraction.
In his interview on the podcast Global Optimism, he encouraged listeners to follow the example of young people.
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“They can see perhaps more clearly than the rest of us who have been around for some time. We older ones should take notice of what they say,” Attenborough said.
“We have no option, if we want to survive,” he added. "We have a [moral] obligation on our shoulders and it would be to our deep eternal shame if we fail to acknowledge that.”
In recent months, young people around the world have joined “Fridays for Future” protests, in which students skip school on Fridays to call for climate action. The movement was started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has become a leading voice in the global environmental movement through her powerful speeches in front of world leaders and her bold lifestyle changes. The teen has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
More than 485 Fridays for Future strikes are expected to take place in 72 countries this Friday, the Guardian reports.
In London, the “Extinction Rebellion” movement, which seeks to spur concrete legislative action on climate change, has grown in recent weeks. The sit-ins and marches have caused mayhem in the city. Police have cracked down heavily on the assembled groups, arresting nearly 1,000 people, since the movement began.
Thunberg recently joined the protesters in London and delivered a rousing speech.
"For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis,” she said. “But we will make sure they will not get away with it any longer."
Attenborough said that these examples of youth activism give him hope that the worst consequences of climate change can be averted.
“[Young people] understand the simple discoveries of science about our dependence upon the natural world,” he told Figueras. “My generation is no great example for understanding — we have done terrible things.”
“That is the one big reason I have for feeling we are making progress,” he added. “If we were not making progress with young people, we are done.”