Thursday 12 December 2019

'Society has to be disrupted every now and again' - David Attenborough's advice to climate strikers

David Attenborough in Iceland for Seven Worlds, One Planet
David Attenborough in Iceland for Seven Worlds, One Planet
New series: Attenborough on location in Kenya while filming Seven Worlds, One Planet

Tess de la Mare

David Attenborough has said that he hopes the recent wave of climate strikes have "made their point", adding disrupting society "has to be done every now and again".

The naturalist, now 93, made the comments after accepting the 2019 Chatham House Prize presented to him by the Queen at the policy institute's London headquarters.

When asked about the wave of climate strikes over the last year inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, David said: "It doesn't actually help to disrupt society but it has to be done every now and again to make a point and I hope that point has now been made."

David was awarded the prize alongside Julian Hector, head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, for their work exposing the scale of plastic pollution in the world's oceans through Blue Planet II.

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Accepting the prize, David said: "Never has there been a greater need for international cooperation and international solutions - they won't be easy.

"Politicians have to look to the people who elect them who will assume they will be number one on the list - that can't remain to be so, we are citizens of the world and we must recognise that."

Awarding him the prize, the Queen, who is also 93, joked: "One can't help but feel that, for those of us of a certain generation, we can take great pleasure in proving age is no barrier to being a positive influence."

Mr Hector said: "We didn't set out to make a programme about ocean plastics or climate change, but we documented what we saw - this is our world whether we like it or not."

The monarch's appearance came less than an hour after the Duke of York announced she had given him permission to "step back" from his public duties in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

It is also the Queen and Prince Philip's 72nd wedding anniversary.

In a panel session ahead of the event, Sir David remarked he had been talking about the impact of pollution and plastic on the world's oceans for the last 20 years.

"The strange thing about the polluting of the ocean is that we've been saying the same thing for a long time," he said.

"But in mass media it's a mystery when you make an impact and when you don't and an awful lot of advertising agencies would like to know how to predict this but you can't."

Dr Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, said: "Blue Planet II spurred a passionate global response and generated clear behavioural and policy change."

This summer, the G20 agreed a framework to address marine litter, while the EU agreed to ban a range of single-use items including plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers and cotton buds from 2021.

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