This weekend marks the 90th birthday of Sir David Attenborough; someone so intertwined in the world of naturalists that he has become more legend than man. In a career that has spanned over half a century he is adored by birders, conservationists and the general public alike and probably features as one of the most used answers to that infamous interview question “Which celebrity alive or dead would you must like to have dinner with?” As generations of wildlife lovers single handedly note him as one of their greatest influences, its hard to put into words just what this icon means to wildlife conservation today in 2016. Luckily the Wildlife Articles bloggers are good with words, so we got them to try and sum up how he has influenced them.
Like many naturalists, I have been greatly influenced by Sir David Attenborough. Without his monumental contribution to natural history broadcasting it is safe to say that my interest in all things ecological may have remained a lowly ember, as opposed to the flame that burns bright today. Growing up, many a day was filled with Attenborough documentaries – Planet Earth, The Private Life of Plants, Africa, all enthralled me, though by far my favourite was ‘The Life of Birds’. A show that greatly bolstered my interest in the avian world. Without this, and Sir David’s dedication to bringing hard hitting, environmental issues into our homes, it is safe to assume that I would not be on the path I am today. I would not be venturing outdoors most days in search of wildlife and certainly would not be on track for a career in conservation. As such, I am incredibly grateful for Sir David’s contribution to the field – and for signing my RSPB membership in response to a letter I sent him some years back! A great naturalist, iconic presenter and undeniably, a very nice man. Long may he reign.
In May, we’ll celebrate one mans lifelong contribution to natural history and conservation, a man very special to almost anyone with even the smallest inkling for the beauty of our World. David Attenborough has given us vast amounts of joy and knowledge right through our television sets and has been with us in our living rooms as we’ve grown up, sharing his passion and inspiring us all. For me, my most vivid memory of David Attenborough’s voice takes me back to my bunk beds, peering out at my TV screen, watching a blue whale break the waters surface. I can still hear his words, trying somehow to convoy the unimaginable size of the creature I was looking at. You could actually swim through its blood vessels and its heart was the size of a car. How incredible is that? More recently, my favourite narration by David was in Frozen Planet, he captured the intense excitement of the wolf and bison chase perfectly. Attenborough has the voice that captivates us and can make the smallest of insects, to the largest of mammals utterly fascinating. When you visualise clips from the epic shows, his voice is there to take you through the motion of the wonderful footage.
I actually have a bit of a confession to make. Growing up I never liked animal documentaries. All the documentaries I seemed to stumble upon gave such huge anthropogenic qualities to the animals and I didn’t need any more animal heartbreak in my life, I mean I watched Animals of Farthing Wood religiously which was enough to scar me for life about animal death.
Anyway living in a house full of animal students at uni quickly ruined that for me and I was launched into the world of David Attenborough head first. I remember the first series I properly watched was Life on Earth, it was the most visually stunning thing I had ever seen. After that his documentaries became a staple part of university life; from my housemate using them as “key revision tools” to his soothing tones the morning after an SU Friday he was ever-present and loved by all. He served not only as an entertainment source but as a peacemaker and an educator; almost becoming another housemate. Obviously this love affair wasn’t just a university romance but has since followed me through later life, to the point where I’m rather embarrassingly buzzing about his birthday documentary.
So Happy 90th Birthday Sir David, and sorry for waiting 18 years before I watched your programmes!
David Attenborough, what can be said about such a man? Attenborough has changed the way that we view nature. He has expanded the horizons of what is possible through the medium of television, taking us, the public, on global journeys to visit worlds we couldn’t even imagine. His insightful and informative narration has become a reassurance of knowledge and quality and has helped shaped the modern conservation movement. A diverse archive of programming has inspired generations and his off-screen work as a patron, figurehead and active campaigner for multiple charities and causes highlights that his dedication to wildlife and nature conservation goes far beyond a television personality. As Attenborough reaches a landmark birthday, his wealth of work continues to grow and will continue to enrich our perception of the animal kingdom and our place within it long into the future.
As I write this we have just celebrated the Queen’s 90 birthday, Sir David Attenborough is also 90 and, whilst the Queen represents the Commonwealth, Sir David essentially represents the natural world. If all the plants and animals got together and elected a spokesperson it would no doubt be Sir David Attenborough.
The reason we sill love Attenborough is that he has a genuine interest in what he does, often getting super excited about something that looks utterly trivial. Importantly, you never feel that Attenborough is doing a show just for the sake of it, there is always a purpose and a message. Never does he take centre stage away from the animals, nor does he engage in any sort of self-publicity. The undying enthusiasm along with the convivial, modest approach to filmmaking is what makes David Attenborough stand out from the rest. Not merely a presenter, a legend.
You need a decisive nature to try and choose a favourite David Attenborough documentary, as there are just so many beautifully narrated films – personally I’m still undecided on mine. His expressive and flowing narration style is what has made him a household name, with a voice everyone recognises. David Attenborough is not just an inspiration to conservationists but we have all grown up with him and he is loved by the whole nation. For some reason there is a gap between environmental conservation and the public, and I think he bridges this gap. When he gives his opinion on something, it isn’t just because he let his emotions guide his actions but because he has listened to the science, considered the so called ‘big picture’ and then taken a stand, which is why he is so respected. His narration transports us into another world, opens our eyes to the magnificence of the planet and reminds us all why it is worth saving.
Whether we care to admit it or not, there are celebrities or famous individuals who have been something of an influence in our lives. Singers, actors, writers, authors, presenters; they can all be influential. Although there are many whom I also admire, there is one name that really does stand head, shoulders and torso above the rest: David Attenborough! To me, he is quite simply the godfather of wildlife, conservation and education. Not to disregard or disrespect the countless others who have had a huge impact on our knowledge of the natural world, David Attenborough has always been the most important to me personally. He is unique in the respect that he is the only person (discounting those in my family) who has always been involved in my education and, dare I say it, my moulding as a person. Yes, quite right, I have never had the privilege to know, or even meet him, but for as long as I can remember, David Attenborough has always been there. My first memories date from when I was around four or five, sitting in front of the television on a Sunday evening, watching ‘Wildlife on One’. It was my first introduction to a wildlife programme and from the very first time I saw it, I was hooked! I must have been, because I can remember negotiating with my siblings that whatever we might do that night, I must, at all costs, have my 30 minute fix of ‘Wildlife on One.’ Every single episode of this great programme was narrated by David Attenborough, and to me, he was the only acceptable option. He knew and described everything so perfectly and so passionately, that I couldn’t help but be utterly captivated by the animal soap operas unfolding before my eyes! Unfortunately, for a time, I then became be a bit of wildlife snob as a child; I found it rather difficult to accept any wildlife programme that was not presented or narrated by David Attenborough. Now I am older I have of course grown out of this phase and there are many other presenters, well established in conservation, wildlife and science, whom I also love to watch. However, I must admit that they had to crawl and scratch their way into my affections, and even now, given the choice, I would always choose Attenborough. It sounds like a cliché, but if it wasn’t for his programmes, such as ‘Wildlife on One’ and then of course, ‘Wildlife on Two’, I probably would not have been as inspired by the natural world as I am. Excuse the gushing and nauseating end (I don’t do sentiment very often), but there are always people in our lives who give us guidance and help us become who we are. For me David Attenborough is one of those people. So, happy 90th Birthday Sir David, and thank you.
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