Movie Review: Netflix’s “A Life on Our Planet”

Crisp Films. “David Attenborough.” 2020. Jpeg.file

Alex Knutte

Written by Alex Knutte | Edited by Aditi Khandelwal

Logging onto my Netflix account and seeing a plethora of new titles and releases makes me a different level of happy. Additionally, there’s nothing I love more than a good, thought provoking documentary, as nerdy as that makes me sound. So, when I logged onto my Netflix account a few months ago and saw the new release, “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,” I could not be more excited. For those of you who are unfamiliar with David Attenborough, you definitely know his spellbinding, soothing voice. Even if you aren’t a big documentary lover, you have most likely heard Attenborough narrate some kind of nature related video, even if it was just in your sixth grade natural science class. He has been narrating nature shows and documentaries for over six decades, some of his more popular works include: “Our Planet,” “Planet Earth”, “Blue Planet,” and “Life.”

The Netflix description of “A Life on Our Planet” reads, “Rainforests cleared. Species lost. Earth imperiled by climate change. But he knows what we must do to save the world.” So, I made some popcorn on my stove top, snuggled up on my couch with a big blanket, and prepared to be left hopeless after watching the film. I mean, talk about a distressing summary! Could someone really know how to save our planet, even with all the destruction we have done to it? Much to my surprise, after watching “A Life on Our Planet,” I found myself feeling a lot more hopeful than I expected- and it wasn’t just because of the melodious voice of David Attenborough. It seems if we take action now, there is still hope for the future of our planet. So, now for the movie review. 

Undoubtedly, the most memorable part of the film is when Attenborough puts us through the ringer with his horrifying predictions of the future, assuming we continue down the current path we are on, with no change in behavior regarding our ecosystems, emissions, consumption, and total disregard for nature. He predicts what will happen in the 2030’s, 2040’s, 2050’s, 2080’s, and 2100’s. 

2030’s:

Attenborough predicts that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest will continue to occur on a large scale, and so many trees will be cut down that there will be no going back. He says that Amazon will reach a point of no return, meaning that it will no longer be able to produce enough moisture, transforming it from rainforest to savanna. This will alter the global water cycle, according to The Amazon Aid, as, “on a typical day, the trees in the Amazon release 20 billion tons of moisture into the atmosphere, seeding the clouds with rain.” Additionally, biodiversity will be lost on an extreme level as “there are approximately 10 million species of animals, plants and insects known to man and more than half of them call the rainforest home,” according to the World Wildlife Foundation. Not to mention, by the 2030’s global warming will have accelerated even further as the Arctic will start experiencing periods of totally ice-free months.Without the white ice caps, less of the sun’s energy will be reflected back into space, speeding up climate change dramatically.

2040’s: 

In the 2040’s, climate change is supposed to speed up even more. We are talking only 20 years into the future! In the North, frozen permafrost soils will thaw, releasing methane into the atmosphere. What’s the deal with methane, you ask? According to Earth.Org, methane “is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of absorbing heat and contributes 25% of man-made global warming as of 2013.” Here’s yet another scary statistic for you: “17% of the Earth’s exposed land surface is underlain by permafrost,” meaning that climate change is really going to amp up in the next 20 years (Earth.Org).

2050’s:

If you weren’t in distress already, the 2050’s will really do you in. Attenborough predicts all the coral reef systems around the world will bleach and die due to global warming and increasing acidity in the oceans. As someone who loves the ocean and its creatures, this was tough to hear. But even if you aren’t the biggest ocean fan, losing the coral reefs directly or indirectly impacts you too. Without coral reefs, fish populations will crash, affecting the entire world as millions of people rely on fish for food, jobs, and tourism. Told you this one was tough.

2080’s:

Ever hear of soil exhaustion? Well, you’ll definitely be hearing that term in the 2080’s. Sciencing.com defines soil exhaustion as the state of soil where “soils are no longer able to support crops or other plant life due to overuse.” If you’re thinking so what? Who cares about soil? Well, you should! Attenborough  predicts that global food production will enter a worldwide food crisis because crops will no longer be able to be grown in the soil. Yeah, soil is pretty important. If this isn’t bad enough already, he also adds that pollinating insects will disappear completely, giving us little to no chance of eating food as we know it today. 

2100’s:  

Finally, Attenborough concludes his disastrous timeline with the 2100’s. He predicts the Earth will be four degrees warmer, causing polar ice to melt and the sea level to rise at unprecedented rates. In turn, the coastal areas will become inhabitable, leaving millions of people worldwide homeless. To add to that, Attenborough  claims that the sixth mass extinction event will be occurring, leaving the Earth with far lesser species and irreversible damage.

Well, that was demoralizing. Luckily, Attenborough concludes the film with what we must do to change that timeline. He claims that there is still hope for us, if, and only if, we start making some major changes today. Attenborough states that there is a chance for us to make amends with nature and follow these five solutions. It is the least we can do to preserve our world and planet.

5 Solutions to Reverse the Damage Done to Our Planet: 

1: Control Population Growth

By 2100, the Earth is expected to be home to 11 billion human beings. Let that number sink in for a second- 11 billion people. Despite what people may think, limiting the number of kids people are allowed to have is not the way to stop the rapidly increasing population. Attenborough states that the following will keep the population under control: raising people out of poverty, improving global healthcare access, and enabling children to stay in school as long as possible.

Group of people

2: Shift to Renewable Energy

Use of renewable energy minimizes carbon pollution and has a much lower impact on our environment, says the World Wildlife Foundation. Globally, we must diverge from fossil fuel use, Attenborough emphasizes. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “Fossil fuels emit a number of air pollutants that are harmful to both the environment and public health. Sulfur dioxide emissions, primarily the result of burning coal, contribute to acid rain and the formation of harmful particulate matter.” As of 2018, only 17% of the United States’ energy consumption came from renewable sources, certifies the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. That number is expected to double by 2030, but that simply isn’t enough, Attenborough exclaims. Morocco, the leading country in the world for renewable energy, relies on 42% of energy from renewable sources, mainly solar, as of this year. It isn’t impossible to bring the numbers in other countries up, as Morocco serves as an example of what can be accomplished.

renewable energy

3: Restore Biodiversity

Attenborough hits us with a few more terrifying statistics: Since the 1950’s, animal populations have reduced by more than half. Humans account for around 36% of the weight of all the mammals on Earth, while a whopping 60% of animals are those that are raised for us to eat; including cows, chickens, and pigs. All of the other species on Earth make up a mere 4%. Scientists at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity found that: “Every day, up to 150 species are lost, meaning that as much as 10% of the total biodiversity of the planet could be lost per decade.” In order to reverse the damage done to our planet, we must restore the biodiversity of the Earth. When ecosystems are more diverse, they are better able to perform ecosystem services, such as atmospheric production and carbon sequestration.

leopard

4: Change Our Diets

If we restore biodiversity in ecosystems, species will need somewhere to live. According to Our World in Data, approximately 50% of all the total land of the Earth is used for food production; from raising livestock to crops. We need to reduce this percentage in order to have a chance at restoring biodiversity, and the easiest way to accomplish that is to change the way that we eat. If we all had a largely plant-based diet, David Attenborough says, we would need half the land we use now. Luckily, us here at Cook and Culture have you covered with a plethora of tips and tricks as well as recipes regarding a plant-based diet. 

vegetables

5: Stop Deforestation 

Humans cut down up to 15 billion trees per year. We need to completely halt deforestation, as forests are essential in oxygen production and carbon sequestration. According to the United Nations Economic Commission, “Forests sequester carbon by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transforming it into biomass through photosynthesis.” It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. This solution goes hand in hand with increasing biodiversity, as it is suffering due to deforestation. Attenborough further points out that crops like oil palms and soya should only be grown on land that was deforested long ago, because they are so detrimental to the environment.

deforestation

These five solutions are the key to sustaining the human population. Attenborough stresses that we must change not to save nature and the planet, but the human race. He says that nature will always find a way to regenerate itself and continue on, and it will continue to do so even if the human race vanishes. It is absolutely critical for each of us to do our part in this fight for survival.  Even small contributions from each and every person will make all the difference. Try out a plant-based meal, ditch single use plastics, opt for reusables, avoid products that contribute to deforestation, and use your voice. There are so many ways to get involved in this fight for our planet. 

Here is the takeaway for this movie review: Should you watch “A Life on Our Planet?” Absolutely. A visual of the future Attenborough predicts in his timeline is enough to shock anyone into doing better for our planet. But if you don’t watch the movie, hopefully you take some of these solutions to heart. It is going to take a worldwide effect from every single person to do better to save ourselves, the human species, as well as the planet. What changes will you make? Share this article with a friend to get them involved, and perhaps watch “A Life on Our Planet” together. Attenborough closes with the note, “If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.” So let’s start today.

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