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A Life on Our Planet summary

David Attenborough

My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future

4.6 (222 ratings)
16 mins

Brief summary

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough is a thought-provoking and inspiring exploration of the natural world and our place within it. It offers insights into the challenges facing the planet and provides a roadmap for a more sustainable future.

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    A Life on Our Planet
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    As Attenborough got older, his fascination with the natural world gradually changed to concern.

    When the author, David Attenborough, was a child, he would spend whole days cycling around the countryside of Leicester, UK, hunting for ammonites – small fossilized sea creatures from millions of years ago. Their spirally little shells, frozen in time in the limestone, sparked in the young boy a fascination with the natural world and the truths that govern it.

    Eventually, he learned that the ammonites had died out during the last mass extinction – which is when an apocalyptic event caused by global change wipes out great numbers of species in one go. The last mass extinction ended the 175-million-year era of the dinosaurs. In the millions of years since then, life rebooted into a long period of stability in which humans could eventually develop. 

    Unlike any species before us, we were able to develop something utterly unique: culture. Through culture, and our newborn ability to store and pass on knowledge from generation to generation, we developed ever more sophisticated ways to make the natural world easier to live in. With this new power came tremendous responsibility.

    The key message here is: As Attenborough got older, his fascination with the natural world gradually changed to concern. 

    About 10,000 years ago, in what is today the Middle East, people started farming grains and domesticating wild animals. Ultimately, they had enough surplus for some people to trade their crafts for food rather than spend time growing it. This was the beginning of civilization. But each advancement these complex societies made relied on one thing: the stability of their environment. 

    As Attenborough’s career progressed from presenter to executive at the BBC, which he had joined in 1952, he began to realize that this stability was in peril for the first time in human history. As he crisscrossed the world producing natural history programs, he saw more and more evidence that humans were not only impacting the precious biodiversity of the planet, but causing habitats to disappear entirely. 

    In 1978, Attenborough got a chance to travel to Rwanda to film mountain gorillas. What he found there changed his outlook forever.

    He particularly remembers one surprising, and very intimate, encounter when a huge female gorilla appeared from a bush behind him and began playing with his face. Then he felt something land on his feet – her two infants were playing with his shoelaces! 

    The situation for these human-like creatures was dire. Fewer than 300 individuals were left. Their habitat had been severely reduced as people cut down rainforest to create cultivated fields. What’s more, the gorillas were being killed by poachers, who sold their severed body parts as souvenirs. 

    This was Attenborough’s first realization that we were causing irreparable harm to the most precious of Earth’s wonders. Unfortunately, it was far from his last.

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    What is A Life on Our Planet about?

    A Life on Our Planet (2020) is celebrated naturalist David Attenborough’s account of the incredible wonders he’s seen in his 94 years on Earth – and a vivid warning of what will happen if we continue on our current path. It’s accompanied by a Netflix documentary of the same name.

    A Life on Our Planet Review

    A Life on Our Planet (2020) by David Attenborough is a thought-provoking exploration of the impact of human activity on our planet and a call to action for a sustainable future. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a comprehensive overview of the environmental challenges we face, backed by scientific evidence, making it both educational and eye-opening.
    • Presents a hopeful vision for the future, outlining practical solutions and showcasing success stories that inspire positive change.
    • Attenborough's engaging storytelling and personal experiences create an emotional connection, making the book an impactful and memorable read.

    Who should read A Life on Our Planet?

    • Anyone who loves nature television
    • Those concerned about global warming
    • People who want to take action to save our planet before it’s too late

    About the Author

    David Attenborough has been making natural history programs for over 60 years. He has traveled all over the world, bringing the most rare and amazing animal and plant species to an adoring global audience.

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    A Life on Our Planet FAQs 

    What is the main message of A Life on Our Planet?

    The main message of A Life on Our Planet is to raise awareness about the impact of human activities on the environment and provide solutions for a sustainable future.

    How long does it take to read A Life on Our Planet?

    The reading time for A Life on Our Planet varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is A Life on Our Planet a good book? Is it worth reading?

    A Life on Our Planet is a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment and interested in learning about practical solutions for a sustainable future.

    Who is the author of A Life on Our Planet?

    The author of A Life on Our Planet is David Attenborough.

    What to read after A Life on Our Planet?

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