Sir David Attenborough | Biology: Changing the World Interview | Royal Society of Biology



oh I think what is easy to answer fossils I grew up in Leicestershire in Leicester which is on the Jurassic and it's full of lovely fossils ammonites Bela Knights backer pods they're very beautiful and and and how did they get there the middle the rocks in the middle of England and so on and I had the collecting bug which are nice which I still have a shop which is the basis of so much Natural History really and and so much of science and so collecting all these things and discovering what they were and how they lived when they had lived all that was abiding fascination to me from the age of about eight and I still feel that way actually I think one of the real sells was was sitting by a pond in a meadow in Leicestershire and looking down through the water and seeing a displaying great crested newt I'm not so sure was a great question or just just Christine but it was it was a displaying male Newt and he had a scarlet belly and I thought that was the most astonishing thing I've seen and coupled with I suppose at the same time a dragonfly purse on the would eat thereby that was a revelation about the splendor and beauty and fascination and mystery of the natural world which hit me very hard I mean I thought it was astounding well I think almost any biologist would have to say as Charles Darwin I mean that's a sort of rather boring response because it is so predictable but he he does tower over everybody else and the more you read of whenever you you think about problems no no you think always worth fighting with a Darwin contemplated her and so often he did and so often he was so perceptive in his in his response and I mean I suppose one tends to think of him as the naturalist going around the the tropics and the Galapagos and all that sort of stuff but of course the fundamental stuff was with him sitting in his garden in Kent I'm just looking at things and staring at them with that deep profound inquisitive curiosity and he has to be the man except that you're being such a whore of him that you wouldn't be able to speak really I don't know what you would say about I'm they have to have that inquisitive nothing that curiosity themselves otherwise they're not in the business and one has to think about why you say go into communication rather than actually doing it but that's actually what I did I mean I I having taken a wartime degree I had to go into the Navy and do conscription and when I came out I didn't have a doctorate I just had a short wartime degree and I knew I was uneducated and I thought about going back on grants government grants and entering that but at that stage I was in my early twenties I wanted to get married a month another and and I thought I would I wasn't even sure that I had the the dedication that their proper Bower just really needs to concentrate on one particular group so maybe what I'm describing is what a lot of other people feel that maybe they don't feel there that the research is their line and therefore they would want to go into communication I don't know but that's why I did oh I think it's never been more important ever and the history of the world that people should understand the nature of the natural world and understand how dependent we on it and realize that that if it goes if we injure it we into ourselves that we're dependent on the natural world for every particle of food we eat and for the air we breathe so understanding them much a world it is the paramount importance particularly since now it's under greater threat has ever been in the history of mankind well can I don't use it very much but I can see perfectly well how how marvelous it is that you you I mean I you know I like books and and I'm too old to change that now but I can perfectly see that and and when I'm working on a project and working with people are helping and as researching I mean see them going oh you've got a problem even at the moment when you actually filming and I say what about that means something before I knew where there are there they've going and they bring the answer and that is a fantastic thing and it is I mean it must be changing the way in the nature of scholarship really and the nature of research the fact that you can immediately cannot communicate not only with what everybody has have known for 2,000 years but everybody who's who's working in the same field as you are I mean that is just extraordinary I think this is a continuing neurosis that's what I want a continuing worry I mean as long as I can remember scientists have been saying to one another people don't understand last you know I mean really we they don't understand how valuable they are and they don't understand there's a basis of our civilization we must protect ourselves more and I suppose that's true but I don't suppose actually that however much you do it the but that the profession is going to say oh I think people know enough about it now and understand how valuable we are I don't think they're gonna say that but I mean you should keep on doing it but I I am not as not as concerned and worried about it or think that it is a major problem in the way that many people do so maybe I'm at fault well I don't think it's all that difficult if you have the minimum space but the trouble is that you you have less space on the other hand I mean with the the huge increase in the size of the human population fact that is it that it has tripled in size since I started making natural history programs I mean is you should make one think and so that you are cut off and the United Nations says that over 50% of the Homo sapiens are now organized so that means cut me off to some degree from the natural world and there's some people never see a wild creature at all unless it's a rat or um or a pigeon and they're not wild so maintaining contact you can do it if you wish to do it and you can do it on the and window box and television can help and should help I mean it is a responsibility now and giving you now that now that the problems we have faced are global and even the most enlightened person sitting in the city is not going to be aware of what's going on in the world rather well unless he has access to television and unless television actually recognizes and has that responsibility which it should do I haven't been in the gobies yeah nice I'm in my dreams I think you've got dinosaur fossils are routing out every every time you turn round but there aren't many other things living in the cavalry it is after all a desert so I can't be expected to come the bid to pay me to go and make my land that's a history of the Gobi because it's few and far between it's gonna take a long time but I'm sorry that I don't know the Gobi and that's one of area well well I'm tempted to say a sloth hanging outside they weren't down and nothing need you wanting nothing but another two on the leaf why my imagination could could stray over our the strange sexual rituals of some species which I wear to specify but one or the other well I could cite the number things I suppose the first time I did this that or the other but but but the the one of the revelatory moments that my good fortune to have had was the first time I dived on a coral reef and and the motion which so many people experience now of actually being late weightless is in itself a revelation to be able to move in three dimensions flip up off have done that is itself exciting a moment you actually can do it with some degree of confidence but to do it on a Barrett on a reef where there are myriad invertebrates of fantastic colors and shapes and so you never dream though no really seen on ever before I mean amazing mollusks you know shall dismiss those sea slugs or the corals or some of these rubber crabs or I mean just just amazing well I know for one thing that it's no good just biologists doing it that the whole of homo sapiens has got to understand it and the whole of Homo sapiens got to change their ways so biologists are leading the way and biologists have got to make it apparent to everybody how important of what they're I'm doing is I of course there are specialists conservation problems which biologists alone can solve and that's that's one thing which they are doing we need to understand what ecological communities need and how mobile they are and how it's not just a little plot here that you're going to understand the whole of the world is in turmoil just in another two thousand years or whatever no much more than that but people from another planet would see that this is we're on the middle of the earth it's in the middle of this huge biological ecological turmoil and we have to understand it and you start by looking at the little bits and then trying to piece them together in the picture which requires the whole biological community to be talking to one another in order to people can get a comprehension of the turmoil in which our planet is involved in the moment which is a biological term above anything else you

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