THE BIG READ | David Attenborough: the real reasons why he can’t retire just yet

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David Attenborough is in the extraordinary position of having seen more of the natural world than probably anyone else. (Photo: CAMERA PRESS/GREATSTOCK)
David Attenborough is in the extraordinary position of having seen more of the natural world than probably anyone else. (Photo: CAMERA PRESS/GREATSTOCK)

Davos, January 2019. Not the natural habitat of Sir David Attenborough, but here he is, aged 93, in a suit and tie, addressing a room full of financiers, CEOs and world leaders.

He is showing them clips of film, the consequences of our actions upon the natural world: an orangutan clinging to the sole branch of a single tree in what used to be a verdant rainforest; horrific footage of enormous walruses tumbling from cliffs, unable to find anywhere to rest because the retreating sea ice has forced hundreds of them on to one small beach.

The audience is visibly moved. In the front row, Christine Lagarde, then head of the IMF, is in tears. Attenborough, onstage, explains in his measured, soothing voice, how it has come to this, how we have effectively destroyed our most crucial resources and, most importantly, what can be done about it, what they – sitting in that room, people of influence and power and financial clout – can do about it.

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