David Attenborough is celebrating his 90th birthday, and I for one am glad he has spent so many years broadcasting nature programs for the BBC. We even have a Bur Oak tree in the backyard named David Atten-bur-oak (my kids named it).
I really enjoy the programs for two reasons. The first reason is that they are very well done overall, with great subject matter, geographic locations, and videography. The second reason is David himself. He adds humanity and his own enthusiasm for whatever subject: be it lions, ants or plants. That human element is what is missing from many American produced nature programs.
Most American nature shows rely on a completely voyeuristic perspective of nature. This separates us from nature, but almost everywhere humans have some direct influence over the plants and animals of the world. No place on Earth is free from climate change, and industrial pollutants. Without some form of interaction, conservation of the landscape and the flora and fauna in it becomes an abstract concept. We can’t all visit the rainforest or Arctic tundra, and perhaps most of us would not want to, but by seeing another human in those landscapes, we can get a sense of the reality of the habitat.
David Attenborough goes to those places. Sure the hard work is done by the videographers, assistants and produces, but his brief visits, and narration make these ecosystems into something we can appreciate and understand. So I wish him a happy 90th birthday today.