Sir David Attenborough discussed the future of the BBC, the migrant crisis and global warming at the first night of the Radio Times Festival.
He told anecdotes about his illustrious career which included adopting bush babies, surveying the Queen's wardrobe and being interviewed by US president Barack Obama.
Sir David's 60 years on television began with Zoo Quest during the 1950s and will continue with a documentary about the Great Barrier Reef later this year.
He spoke about his childhood, which he spent with his brother Richard and two young Jewish refugee girls who his parents took in after the Second World War.
Sir David said Irvine and Helga became "like sisters" and remained his close friends for the rest of their lives.
He became emotional as he described the refugee crisis as a "hideous, hideous thing". "I know what my parents would be saying if they were alive now," he added. "The problem is it's on a different scale, it was a few hundred people but what do you do when there's hundreds of thousands?"
Sir David was interviewed by Kirsty Young as part of the opening-night gala before he became the first inductee to the Radio Times's Hall of Fame.
He blasted the proposed BBC reforms and said the "character and kind of programmes it makes are dependant on the licence fees".
When asked about his world-wide fame Sir David was modest and insisted he is part of a team and it is the content that makes his documentaries so popular.
"I'm unbelievably lucky because I've spent my life looking at all these fabulous things," he added.
"The reason the programmes are popular is because those things are fabulous and beautiful, they're what the programmes are about, not me.
"I get a lot of reflected glory and I'm grateful for it but I know where the credit lies."
He said the main problem facing humanity is global warming and urged David Cameron to invest in green energy. "It would be wonderful to think that those things I have seen will still be there for the next generation."
The event, a weekend-long celebration of TV and radio at Hampton Court Palace, will also feature Sir Bruce Forsyth, David Walliams, Doctor Who, The Great British Bake Off, The Archers, Call the Midwife, Poldark, Gogglebox and Shaun the Sheep.
Ben Preston, editor of the Radio Times, introduced Sir David to the stage as "the best person alive".
"He is a man who epitomises quality television itself," he added. "He has informed, educated and entertained us all."