Natural world at severe risk, Sir David Attenborough tells Prince William on stage in Davos
Sir David Attenborough warned of the “echoes and implications” in the natural world of everything humans do in the urban world as he took questions from old friend Prince William.
In front of a packed audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Duke of Cambridge spoke to the 92-year-old broadcaster and naturalist for half an hour, talking about their shared passions for conservation, tackling climate change and Sir David’s long broadcasting career.
After William asked what advice Sir David would give to people of his age, the broadcaster said: “We have to recognise that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food that we take comes from the natural world, and that if we damage the natural world we damage ourselves.
“We are one coherent eco-system, it’s not just a question of beauty or interest or wonder, it’s the essential ingredient, the essential part of human life is a healthy planet.
“We are in the danger of wrecking that, if we don’t recognise the sort of connections that I’ve been describing then the whole of the planet becomes in hazard and we are destroying the natural world and with it ourselves.”
William described it as a personal treat to interview the leading environmentalist, who he has described as a “national treasure”.
Reading from a list of prepared questions, William said: “Normally i have to endure people asking me questions, so it’s nice to be turning the tables for once.”
In a veiled dig at political leaders, he asked: “Why do you think the world leaders and those in key positions of leadership have taken so long and there have been quite a few faltering steps to act on environmental challenges?”
Sir David replied: “Because the connection between the natural world and the urban world, the society of human society has always, since the industrial revolution, has been remote and widening and we didn’t realise the effects of what we were doing out there, but now we are seeing that almost everything we do has its echoes and has its implications across the natural world.
“We have now to really be careful what we do because we can exterminate things without even knowing”.
Talking specifically about the impact of plastic waste, he added: “We have now to be really aware of the dangers of what we are doing. We already know that that of course the plastic problem in the seas is wreaking appalling damage upon marine life, the extent of which we don’t yet fully know.”
Sir David said he was optimistic to see a gathering like this at the WEF, widely recognised as a global talking shop for political and economic leaders, as well as philanthropic celebrities.
Asked by William about the conflict between environmentalism, capitalism and economic success, Sir David said: “Still it is seen by some people that in fact humanity and industrialised humanity in particular is in opposition to the natural world.
“It is not. We are all one world and that is the important thing that we need to recognise, and which organisations and events like this give you the optimism of feeling that fact, that fundamental beautiful fact is now being recognised.
“That is why it is so exciting to be at this great important occasion where people attending it have more power perhaps than any other gathering in the world, and the feeling that those responsible for this gathering recognise this fundamental truth.”
He added that those in the room must “do something to make sure that the pact between the natural world and humanity is given its proper place and honour.”
Work around conservation and the environment has become a key focus for Prince William’s charitable work.
Sir David was awarded the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum for his leadership on environmental campaigning and used his acceptance speech to call for a global plan to tackle the issues.
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