Sir David Attenborough: The time for pure national interests is over

Sir David Attenborough has said wealthier nations must give in the wake of the pandemic and the time for “pure national interests” is over.

The veteran naturalist and broadcaster said the “consequences could be apocalyptic” after his generation “muffed it” on the environment.

Sir David, 94, called for greater “internationalism”.

Launching his new film, A Life On Our Planet, Sir David said: “Covid-19 pandemic has caused, and will continue to cause, immense suffering.

“If there is hope that can come out of it, then that may arise from the whole world having experienced a shared threat and found a sense that we are all in it together.

“The same unique brains and communication skills that fuelled the development of our civilisations now have access to technologies and institutions that allow all nations of the world to collaborate and co-operate should we choose to do so.

“The time for pure national interests has passed.

“If we are to tackle climate change, enable sustainable development and restore biodiversity, then internationalism has to be our approach.

“In doing so, we must bring about a greater equality between what nations take from the world and what they give back. The wealthier nations have taken a lot and the time has now come to give.”

The broadcaster said the world is “at a crucial moment”.

“Humanity is at a crossroads and I think the natural world is really under serious, serious threat, and the consequences could be apocalyptic,” he said.

The most important thing to do now is put “the right politicians into positions of power who will say something about saving the planet,” he said, “and to be quite vocal … that we demand that they actually do something and to convince them that we are prepared to take an increase in tax if necessary, to make sure that something is going to happen.”

Asked about young people taking up the issue, Sir David said of the environment: “I’ve had my chance and muffed it perhaps, my generation really has muffed it…

Sir David said young activists, like Greta Thunberg, have every right to be heard
Sir David said young activists, like Greta Thunberg, have every right to be heard

“I think they have every right to make themselves heard. To what degree you break the law is a different issue altogether.

“I don’t believe that it’s sensible politics to break the law, because if you’re any good at all, some of your demands will be met and then you will be demanding that people abide the law and take notice of what they say – you can’t have it both ways.”

He said being wasteful “is the real demon, the real sin. We are astonishingly wasteful”.

Recalling his father-in-law being “appalled” after seeing someone stubbing his cigarette out on a half-eaten steak, he said: “Waste is immoral – the wasting of power, the wasting of paper, the wasting of energy. We shouldn’t waste space – we are wasting space that could be occupied by the natural world. It’s the waste that is the sin.”

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet premieres in cinemas on September 28, featuring an exclusive conversation with Sir David and Sir Michael Palin. The film will launch on Netflix on October 4.