‘The present administration is disastrous’: David Attenborough condemns Trump’s impact on the natural world

The documentarian, 94, has become increasingly direct on the perils that humanity faces if we fail to tackle the climate crisis

Louise Boyle
New York
Monday 28 September 2020 19:28 BST
David Attenborough turns 90

Sir David Attenborough says that the Trump administration has been “disastrous” for the natural world.

The documentarian, 94, known as the planet’s “elder statesman” has become increasingly direct on the perils that humanity faces if we fail to tackle the climate crisis. 

Sir David shared his views ahead of the release this week of his book and Netflix documentary, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, a personal reflection on what he has witnessed over six decades as a naturalist and broadcaster.

While speaking to the BBC on Monday, he praised China for moving in the right direction on climate, following Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent announcement of an aim for carbon neutrality by 2060. However he had sharp words for the United States.

“The present administration in America, from a conservationist’s point of view, is disastrous. But there we are: that’s who’s been elected and we have to go through it,” Sir David said.

He told 60 Minutes on Sunday, that “we are sunk” if countries cannot put aside national ambitions and tackle climate change with an "international ambition of survival”. 

He was asked by host Anderson Cooper what message he would have for President Trump, President Xi or Indian prime minster Narendra Modi. (China, the US and India produce the world’s highest carbon emissions.)

 “I would say that the time has come to put aside national ambitions and look for an international ambition of survival,” Sir David said. 

Cooper pointed out that nationalist sentiments are rising across many countries, a turn away from the international cooperation of the past.

“That's what's gonna sink us in the end. That's what's gonna sink us,” Sir David said.

The veteran broadcaster calls his new film a “witness statement”. Cooper, remarked that a “witness statement” is normally given at a crime scene. 

“Well, a crime has been committed. And it so happens that, I'm of such an age, that I was able to see it beginning,” he replied.

The 94-year-old has been making nature documentaries for six decades. His 2017 series, Blue Planet II, highlighted the threat to the world’s oceans posed by a rise in plastic waste. 

He was also asked about why he is now more direct about the climate crisis. "If you’re going  to make a statement about the world, you better make sure that it isn't just your own personal reaction,' Sir David told 60 Minutes

“And the only way you can do that, is to see the work of scientists around the world who are taking observation as to what's happening. As to what's happening to temperature, what's happening to humidity, what's happening to radioactivity, and what's happening ecologically?”

He has called climate change “the greatest threat facing the planet for thousands of years”, and went on to say that “even the biggest and most awful things that humanity has done… pale to significance when you think of what could be around the corner, unless we pull ourselves together”.

He urged people not to squander the natural world, saying that despite the monumental challenges, that there was no use saying “to hell with it". 

 Sir David told CBS that he has huge faith in young people to force change, noting that “obviously my generation failed. We've allowed it to happen”.

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