Extinction: The Facts (2020) - full transcript

With a million species at risk of extinction, Sir David Attenborough explores how this crisis of biodiversity has consequences for us all.

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Our planet is home to a seemingly
infinite variety of species.

From ocean giants...

..to the tiniest insects.

We call this abundance
of life biodiversity.

But today, it's vanishing at rates
never seen before in human history.

The UN panel of experts has found

that one million animal and
plant species face extinction.

It is worse than expected.

This is happening much faster
than we've ever seen before.

Today, we are the asteroid
that's causing many, many species

to go extinct simultaneously.

The evidence is that unless
immediate action is taken,

this crisis has grave
impacts for us all.

We're not just losing
nice things to look at.

We're losing critical
parts of Earth's system.

And it's threatening our food,
our water, our climate.

This year has shown us
we've gone one step too far.

Scientists have even linked
our destructive relationship

with nature to the
emergence of Covid-19.

We are encroaching further
and further every day

into wildlife habitat,
and that drives emerging diseases.

If we carry on like this,
we will see more epidemics

as bad as this, and some of
them could even be worse.

The decisions made as we rebuild
our economies are critical.

Get it wrong and we will be
in deeply dangerous territory.

Get it right and we still
have the ability to pull back

and rein in the collapse
of biodiversity.

We have a moment when
we can change our world

and make it better.
This is that moment.

The Facts

Presented by David Attenborough.

Over the course of my life,
I've encountered

some of the world's most
remarkable species of animals.

Only now do I realise
just how lucky I've been.

Many of these wonders seem
set to disappear forever.

We're facing a crisis, and one
that has consequences for us all.

It threatens our ability to feed
ourselves, to control our climate.

It even puts us at greater risk of
pandemic diseases such as Covid-19.

It's never been more important for us to
understand the effects of biodiversity loss,

of how it is that we ourselves
are responsible for it.

Only if we do that will we have
any hope of averting disaster.

Last year, the United Nations
asked over 500 scientists

to investigate the current
state of the natural world.

This is the first time there's
been a global assessment

where all the evidence has been pulled
together, thousands and thousands of papers.

We're losing biodiversity at a rate

that is truly unprecedented
in human history.

All groups in the natural
world are in decline,

which means their populations
are getting smaller, day by day.

Since 1970, vertebrate animals -
things like birds, mammals,

amphibians and reptiles -
have declined by 60% in total.

Large mammals have on average
disappeared from three quarters

of the range where they
were historically found.

What's different is that
it's happening simultaneously

in the Amazon, in Africa,
in the Arctic.

It's happening not at one place and
not with one group of organisms,

but with all biodiversity
everywhere on the planet.

It means that one million species

out of eight million species on Earth
are now threatened with extinction.

500,000 plants and animals
and 500,000 insects.

Extinction is a natural process.

Things come, they grow, their populations
get huge and then they decline.

But it's the rate of extinction.
That's the problem.

So when you look at previous
groups in the fossil records,

then it's over millions
of years they go extinct.

Here we're looking
at tens of years.

Since 1500, 570 plant species

and 700 animal species
have gone extinct.

Studies suggest that extinction
is now happening 100 times faster

than the natural evolutionary rate,
and it's accelerating.

Globally, there was a shock. Because you
hadn't pulled all that data together,

people hadn't realised that we have
a very serious crisis on our hands.

Many people think of extinction

being this imaginary tale
told by conservationists,

but I have lived it.
I know what it is.

I am caretaker of the
northern white rhinos.

We only have two left on the planet.
They are mother and daughter.

This is Najin, the mother, who is
30 years old. She is very quiet.

And her daughter is Fatu.
This is Fatu.

Hey, come on. Hey, Fatu. Fatu,
no, come on. She's 19 years old.

She's pretty much
like a human teenager.

She's a little bit unpredictable

and can be feisty sometimes,
especially when she wants something.

Northern white rhinos were once found
in their thousands in central Africa,

but were pushed to the brink of
extinction by habitat loss and hunting.

By 1990, just seven known
individuals survived.

I've seen these beautiful rhinos
count from seven down to two.

They're here because
we've betrayed them.

And I think they feel it, this threatening
tide of extinction that is pushing on them.

They feel their
world is collapsing.

Unless science saves them,
when Najin passes away,

she'll leave the daughter
Fatu alone forever.

The last northern white rhino.

And their plight awaits
one million more species.

Once we lose these species,

we do not have hope of
accumulating them back

on a timescale that we exist on.

Unique animals with complex and varied
lives disappearing from our planet forever

isn't just disturbing.
It's deeply tragic.

But this is about more than
losing the wonders of nature.

The consequences of these
losses for us as a species

are far-reaching and profound.

What we now know about the natural
world is that everything is joined up.

From a single pond to a
whole tropical rainforest.

All of biodiversity is
interlocked on a global scale

and all parts of that system are
required to make it function.

We tend to think that we're
somehow outside of that system,

but we are part of it and we
are totally reliant upon it.

The problem is we're now
changing those ecological systems

on a massive scale,
right across the globe.

And it's threatening
food and water security.

We're losing many of the things
that nature provides for us.

One of the big threats
is the loss of insects.

We've estimated 10% are
at risk of extinction.

Other scientists believe the
number could be much larger.

Driving around, we don't have
moths, butterflies, bees,

all sorts of insects on
our windshield any more.

And that is scary.

Because they form the food chain

for hundreds of thousands
of other species.

And they are extremely
important for pollination.

Three quarters of the world's food crops
rely partly on pollination by insects

to produce the food that we need.

Another threat is the loss
of diversity below ground.

Soil should be teeming with life.

But reports have suggested that
up to 30% of the land's surface

globally has been degraded and
has soils of low biodiversity.

One of the most important things
that animals in the soil do

is break down organic matter...

..which can then be
used for plant growth.

So if we lose the
diversity of the soil,

the consequences of that
can be catastrophic.

We're seeing already that due to soil
degradation and changes in Earth's climate,

food production in some parts
of the world is going down.

Unfortunately, the most affected would
be poor people in developing countries.

But there's no question everybody
in the world, one way or another,

is being affected by the
loss of biodiversity.

One of the really big problems
is what's happening to plants.

The picture is grim.

25% of the plant species that have been
assessed are threatened with extinction.

One in four plants.
I find that terrifying.

Plants underpin almost every
single thing that we require.

Think about the air we breathe,
concentration of CO2 in the air, clean water.

Trees regulate water
flow across landscapes.

Intercept the rainfall and the
roots hold the soil in place.

So you chop all those trees down,
there's nothing doing that,

you end up with a landslide.

We've learnt that many, many times, and
yet we carry on making the same mistake.

Even in the UK, we've converted many
areas that have been natural wetlands,

which would absorb the water. What
we're now seeing is major floods.

The impacts of biodiversity loss

are no longer a threat for
future generations to face.

We ourselves must do so. It's never
been more critical for us to understand

what is driving this crisis.

Scientists have identified the
key ways in which we humans

are destroying the ecosystems
on which we depend.

There are many ways to
remove pieces of the puzzle.

The most obvious way is to kill
something, and we do a lot of that.

Over the last 20 years, the
illegal wildlife trade has become

a multi-billion dollar
global industry.

One of the biggest ever hauls,
worth more than ?4 million...

326 pieces were seized was
found in a shipping container.

Poaching is still
sort of like a war,

a constant battle
that we have to fight.

Every day, we lose between
two or three rhinos in Africa.

And it is not just rhinos.

We're talking about millions of
animals being snatched from the wild,

from thousands of species.

Illegal wildlife trafficking ranks
fourth of transnational crimes

after human trafficking,
arms and drugs.

One of the drivers
for increasing demand

is increased income in China,
Vietnam or elsewhere.

If you have money,
if you have internet,

you can literally order
anything that you want.

It could be a status symbol or it
could be for medicinal purposes.

But it's all made up.

People claim these are
cultures and traditions,

but a lot is really just a
marketing scheme by traders

looking for the next
animal to exploit.

Today, the most trafficked
animal in the world

is one few people have ever seen
and many have never even heard of.

Pangolins are nocturnal animals
found throughout Asia and Africa.

They are natural pest controllers.

Each one can consume
70 million ants a year.

Pangolins are the only
mammal covered in scales,

and this is their downfall.

The massive demand in
Asia for pangolin scales

is driving the
decimation of pangolins.

Traders claim that they
have medicinal purposes,

but, you know, pangolin
scales are made of keratin.

It's like our fingernails. So
they have no medicinal properties.

It's all right, sweetheart. The
numbers of African pangolin scales

that have been intercepted
going into Asia

has dramatically increased
over the last few years.

Last year, 2019, it was just
over 100 tonnes of scales.

That's 175,000 pangolins

that have been killed
for the scale trade.

We work closely with law
enforcement officials.

This little pangolin
came in off the trade,

and they're usually
dehydrated and emaciated.

This pangolin's still got the little
white tips at the end of each scale

which shows his use. And this is a
particularly pretty little pangolin.

Poaching is a brutally
cruel business.

I have seen video footage
of them being boiled alive.

It's extremely distressing to
see how these animals are killed.

Last year,
when Covid-19 first emerged,

pangolins were pointed to as a
potential source of the virus.

And everybody hoped that this would
cut down the trade straight away,

but unfortunately,
that's not happened.

The trade is highly profitable
and it's unlikely to stop.

There are four Asian pangolin
species and four African.

And all eight species are
threatened with extinction.

There is another huge
trade that is driving

the loss of biodiversity, and
this one happens in plain sight.

We have created a database that
has world fisheries statistics,

and we were the first ones to
study fisheries on a global basis,

and this global view shows that we have
massive and widespread overfishing.

In the last 40 years, the scale of global
fishing has dramatically increased.

At any one time, there could
be as many as 100,000 trawlers

operating in our seas.

Modern fishing is an industrial
operation run by huge corporations,

boats, factories, ships.

Some sweep up the ground with a net
that might be as big as this house.

And you can put four jumbo jets
in the mouth of a big trawl.

And everything that is
in the path goes in.

The problem is, as you remove
more and more of the adult fish,

particularly the larger sized fish,

you end up with fewer and
fewer of the eggs and the fry,

and there's simply not enough
for the population to recover.

There are ways of sustainably
managing fish stocks.

Reducing fishing in an area
can get a population back

to sustainable levels.

But you have to choose whether you want
to extract a sustainable, modest catch

or have a big catch
for a short term.

And we have always opted for
the big catch for a short term.

Even where fish quotas
are put in place,

often they're not
being implemented.

And in some parts of the world, there's not
even good regulations to limit the catches.

The waters around the edge of
fishing countries are being emptied.

We found that in China, we have about
16% left of what we had 120 years ago.

And studies suggest that
some British waters,

where industrial fishing begun,
have been decimated.

There is now about 5%
of trawler cod fish left

before the turn of
the 20th century.

This is a really big problem
for the species of fish

that prey upon the fish
that we're harvesting,

and this has huge impact
for marine ecosystems.

We have completely destroyed the natural
balance of fish in the world's oceans.

Across the globe, the pressures
faced by the natural world

are becoming ever harder to solve

because of our growing demand
for nature's resources.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, there
were three billion people in the world.

So I watched it go to six
billion around 2000 or so,

and I'm now probably going
to see it actually reach,

you know, nine billion in my
lifetime, which is pretty startling.

Population growth is much, much higher in
the developing world than in the developed.

But it's problematic to
just talk about population

because there are two
things which are going on.

It's population,
but it's also consumption.

And in terms of
impact on the planet,

what's much more important is
the growth in consumption levels,

and these are far higher
in the developed economies.

That's why I call it a taboo topic,
because who's at fault?

Is it the very large
number of people,

or the small number of
people with very few children

who are actually driving
negative impacts?

The average person in the UK
consumes nearly four times

the resources of the
average person in India,

and in the United States it's
about seven times as much.

One of the problems is that
many of the products we use

are manufactured in ways that
pollute our air, land and water,

making pollution another of the
drivers of biodiversity loss.

While in a country like
the United Kingdom,

where some very strong laws
on how to reduce pollution,

we do have to realise we're no
longer a major industrial country.

Most of the things that we
actually use are produced abroad

in countries where the laws can be
non-existent or not implemented.

So we are simply moving our footprint
on destroying nature to another country.

Pollutants can have a
lasting impact on species -

an impact that may take time
for us to fully understand.

PCB stand for
polychlorinated biphenyls.

They're used in the electrical
industry. We invented them in the '20s

and then we began to ban
them from the '80s onwards

because we realised they had quite
a serious and toxic effect on life.

They affect the immune system and they
also cause reproductive impairment.

If PCBs are not disposed
of appropriately,

then you can get leaching
out from the landfill site,

into river courses,
river beds and back out to sea.

Animals at the base of the food chain
might absorb very small amounts.

But then as animals above them eat
more and more of the small animals,

they'll concentrate
up the food chain.

In the UK, we have one really
striking example of that.

The last remaining pod of in-shore
killer whales up in north-west Scotland,

where they only have
eight individuals left.

That population has been
studied for about 30 years.

In all that time, they've never had
a calf. Lulu was a part of that pod.

She died due to entanglement
in fishing gear.

When we had her blubber levels analysed
for PCBs, they were quite shocking.

One of the highest levels ever recorded
in any killer whale on the planet.

And when we looked at her ovaries,
we found they were non-functional.

In my lifetime, we're looking potentially
at the complete loss of that population.

And then we'll have no more killer
whales left around the coast of the UK.

In addition to these threats, many
ecosystems are increasingly feeling

the impact of another
driver of biodiversity loss.

Climate change.

Our world is getting hotter.

At this moment,
we do have the Paris Agreement

that says all governments should
try and limit climate change

to no more than two
degrees Celsius.

All of the calculations show we're on
track for a three to four degree world.

And the more the Earth warms,
the worse the problem is.

There are lots of ways that climate
change will impact on species -

changing food sources,
how they breed

and whole patterns of
migration and movement.

Increasing temperatures mean some
species are unable to survive

in their normal habitat.

They're forced to move higher
and higher where it's cooler,

and eventually there's
nowhere left to go.

It's been called the escalator to extinction,
and we see it all around the globe.

In the Australian Wet Tropics, we're
already seeing that with possums and birds

that just can't
handle the heatwaves.

About 50% of the endemic species
that live in these mountaintops

are on that escalator
to extinction.

These are no longer predictions.
We are seeing it happen.

Scientists predict that in the future,
as temperatures continue to rise,

climate change will become the
greatest threat faced by species.

But right now, the single biggest
driver of biodiversity loss

is the destruction of habitats.

Many people imagine there's
this untouched wilderness

because they see it on their
TV screens. But the reality is

there's really not a lot
of wild left out there.

We've already lost nearly 90% of
the wetlands around the world.

We've transformed the
forests and grasslands,

we've converted 75% of the land
that is not covered by ice.

Three quarters of the terrestrial
surface has been changed,

a lot of it just to
feed one species.

Obviously, if you clear a
rainforest or natural savanna

and you replace it with a monoculture
agriculture, of course it's unsurprising

you're going to lose most of the
species that evolved to survive there.

The critical thing is that there is now
enough land that's already been cleared

to sustain the levels of
production that we need.

But new land is still being cleared

because often it's quicker
and cheaper to do so.

It's estimated that every year around 3.8
million hectares of forest are cleared.

A lot of that clearance is driven by
demand on the other side of the world.

We want cheap food and we want to
have choice on offer all year round.

These commodities often provide the
mainstay of countries' economies,

but many are produced in ways
that are not sustainable.

So a consumer walking
into a supermarket

may unwittingly be contributing
towards loss of biodiversity.

What we're doing is taking
customs data, shipping data,

and for the first time we
connect them all together and ask

who is buying from the hot spots where
we're really losing biodiversity.

We now have enough data
to be able to identify

the main drivers of biodiversity loss.

Soy, cocoa, coffee,
palm oil and beef.

Conversion of land for cattle is probably
the greatest single cause of habitat loss.

Of the total mass
of mammals on Earth,

livestock has been found
to account for 60%,

humans for 36%,
and wild animals just 4%.

Brazil has one of the world's largest
cattle herds, more than 200 million animals.

About 12% of Brazil's beef
exports comes to the EU,

but China is the main buyer.

The UK doesn't import much beef, but we
do import another product from Brazil

which is driving the
destruction of habitat.


Soy is a bean. It's a very productive
form of plant protein that's widely used.

The majority goes into animal feed.

Since 2006, efforts have been made
to reduce deforestation for soy

in the Brazilian Amazon, so production
has moved to another part of the country.

The Cerrado is very special and in
many ways it's a forgotten landscape.

At first glance,
it may not seem attractive.

It's basically scrub grasslands,
scrub forests.

Yet the Cerrado has
many unique species.

Giant anteaters have been
around for millions of years,

but they have gone
extinct from many areas.

They only have one pup at a time,
so this one pup is very precious.

So the mothers carry
their pups on their backs,

but their habitat is being
lost in front of our very eyes.

Over 50% has now been transformed
into agricultural landscapes.

The greatest expansion
of agriculture,

the destruction of habitat in the
Cerrado, is in this northern area.

And here we can see the
exports of soy from this area

are predominantly going to China.

But some of it is actually
imported into the UK.

We're buying as much as half a million
tonnes produced in the Cerrado per year.

The majority of this is used
to make feed for chickens

that are sold by many
British supermarkets.

Some supermarkets and some
manufacturers are starting to shift,

but what our data show is that
the consumption of soy in the UK,

even though it's a small
amount of the total exports,

because of where
we're buying it from,

is having a disproportionate
impact on certain species.

Anteaters have to be able to move
freely throughout its environment.

This is important for
males to find mates

or when young will go
find new territories.

If there are barriers to movement,

this can cause very
serious consequences.

As the Cerrado is being cleared,

anteaters can be driven into
isolated islands of habitat.

And the surrounding areas
become lethal territory.

The land is being
crossed by highways.

Sometimes when a female giant anteater
dies on the road, her pup will survive.

But we have found
roadkill decreases

the population growth
rate of anteaters by half.

The unprecedented impact
we are having on the planet

is not only putting the
ecosystems we rely on at risk.

Scientists believe that our
destructive relationship with nature

is actually putting us at greater
risk of pandemic diseases.

We've seen an increasing
rate of pandemic emergence.

We've had swine flu, SARS, Ebola,

and we've actually looked back over
every emerging disease and said,

where did it originate on the planet?
And what are the things going on there

that could have caused it? And we've
found we're behind every single pandemic

and it's human impact on the environment
that drives emerging diseases.

Animals have lots of different
viruses that circulate

inside their bodies,
just like we do.

One of the most obvious ways that we're
making it more likely that a virus would jump

is that we're having lots
of contacts with animals.

The wildlife trade is
at unprecedented levels.

We have huge markets with tens
of thousands of live animals,

shedding their viruses through faeces
and urine, being killed in front of you.

These are incredible places
for viruses to spread.

And we're connected to that trade
through things like the fashion industry.

We've seen this huge increase in the
use of fur trims for winter jackets.

And that means hundreds of thousands
of animals are bred in fur farms.

You have large densities of animals

put in a situation with a lot
of people. To make things worse,

those animals are very stressed, and
we know that animals that are stressed

shed viruses at higher rates.

What also drives emerging diseases

is that we are encroaching further and
further every day into wildlife habitat.

31% of all emerging diseases have originated
through the process of land use change.

Forests around the world, where
there's a lot of biodiversity,

have thousands of viruses that we've
never come into contact with yet.

The minute we build a road in
there, we start getting exposed.

The first people into those logging
camps go out and hunt bushmeat

and pick up the viruses.
That's how HIV emerged.

Then we bring our livestock in. Viruses move
from wildlife into livestock, into people.

At every step of the process, we're
bringing people closer in contact

with wildlife and their viruses.

It's easy to imagine that we're so
far away from these diseases' origins

that it's nothing to do with us.
But we drive it, actually.

Our consumption of beef drives
this, our consumption of poultry,

and the products that are
used in poultry, drives this.

My research is showing that
when humans convert habitat,

there's also something
else at play.

It's not all species that
are likely to make us sick.

Often the best reservoirs for the
pathogens that can jump to humans

are smaller bodied species, like rats
and mice and certain kinds of bats.

When we have intact natural
systems with high biodiversity,

these species are kept in check.
But when humans destroy habitat,

the large predators and
herbivores disappear first.

Which means the smaller bodied
species are the big winners.

They proliferate wildly.
They live at super high density

and are the ones far more
likely to make us sick.

So we've been saying
for 20-plus years

that this exploitation of our
environment is driving pandemics.

But what we didn't think was it was going
to happen so quickly and so devastatingly.

Since the first cases of
Covid-19 were identified in China

and linked to a wet
market in Wuhan,

scientists around the world
have been piecing together

where and how the virus emerged.

It was figured out quickly
that it was a coronavirus.

Those are known to reside
in various kinds of animals,

and so people started
looking for the animal

from which that coronavirus
would have jumped into people.

We found the closest
relative to the virus

in bats, in rural south China,
in Yunnan Province.

It's really well known for its biodiversity
of plants and of animals, including bats,

and they live in these
incredibly complex colonies.

One part of the colony's a
nursery where all the kids live

and the parents fly out
every night to get food.

But Yunnan has been under incredible
change for the past few decades.

High-speed rail links have gone in there,
roads have been built into remote areas.

And so we think Covid-19
maybe even started there.

And either somebody got infected
and travelled to Wuhan themselves

or sent animals that they were shipping into
the wildlife trade into those wet markets

and then the virus
exploded from there.

We don't know exactly
what happened yet,

but it's my view that it's
our relationship with nature

and the way we interact with it
that drove the emergence of Covid.

We've been changing biodiversity
in really critical ways

that made this more
likely to happen.

If we continue on
our current pathway,

then what we've experienced this
year might not be a one-off event.

We estimate there are going to
be five new emerging diseases

affecting people every year.

We cannot live with that.

And the rate at which they're
increasing and crushing our economies,

if we have one of these every decade,
we cannot persist with that level.

We face a frightening future.
So how has it come to this?

Why haven't we acted sooner
to address these issues

and stem the loss of biodiversity?


Many scientists, including myself, have
been saying for the last 25 to 30 years

that biodiversity is being
lost due to human action.

Thousands arrive for the
largest UN meeting ever held

in an effort to prevent drastic
and irreversible changes.

I'm here to speak for the countless
animals dying across this planet.

We're a group of
12- and 13-year-olds

come to tell you adults,
you must change your ways.

In 1992 at the Earth Summit,

a convention was signed
to protect biodiversity.

It was recognised to be of critical
importance to the future of Earth.

The bleak warning from scientists
at a major UN conference in Japan...

In 2010, governments came up with
20 targets to protect biodiversity.

While we're making some progress,
to be quite candid,

we probably will not
meet any of the targets.

Part of the problem is

that we don't have really good
environmental laws that are global.

Also, unfortunately,
many in the private sector

make a huge profit at the
expense of our natural world.

They want the status quo to exist.

The reality is our world is based

on economic growth,
grabbing more and more.

Thank you for joining us to
examine the extinction crisis.

The evidence is unequivocal...
Even today, there are people

that will do anything in their power to
make sure that the politicians do not act.

I'm here to tell you that the
three lead authors here from the UN

are part of this con that the
United Nations presents itself

as the world's expert on science.
- At a recent Congressional testimony,

two of the Republican witnesses
argued that the loss of biodiversity

was nowhere near as serious as
what we were saying in the report.

As with the manufactured
climate crisis,

they are using the spectre of mass extinction
to scare the public into compliance.

We've wasted 20 to 30 years when
the governments of the world,

working with the private sector,
could have done a much better job

conserving biodiversity.

If we had acted more seriously,
many species could have been saved

and we would not be facing such
serious threats as we're seeing today.

This year has shown the
vulnerability of our societies.

Will we take the opportunity,
finally, to change our course?

What can governments,
industries and we as individuals do

to slow this decline
of the natural world?

The world has been on
pause during the pandemic,

and as we begin to move forward,
we have a moment,

we can change the way we're running
our world and make it better.

This is that moment.

The first thing that we have to do is
to reset the way we run our economies.

The massive hit to the
economy is no surprise.

The UK economy has lost
a quarter of its value.

The world is in a recession.
Governments are recognising

that they have to invest
to drive out of it.

And I've been involved in a
study with the finance ministries

and the central bank governors
of the world in thinking through

what the best ways out of this
crisis are. And we've found

that those investments which
are good for the environment

are very powerful ways out of the
depression that we find ourselves in.

So, for example, we could begin
work on restoring degraded land.

We can plant trees,
we can start retrofitting buildings

so they're much more efficient,
make our cities much cleaner.

All those examples
can be done quickly,

they are labour intensive and
are strong economic multipliers.

So exactly the kind of things
you need for a strong recovery.

There are all these things we know we have
to do for biodiversity and for the climate,

so let's bring them forward to
this period of unemployment.

And then, going forwards, we need
to dramatically change the damage

that we do from producing and
consuming. That's the big prize.

At the moment,
nature is coming as a free good.

We use rivers and estuaries

as sinks for the pollution
we create from industry.

Who's paying for that?

Large chunks of the rainforests
have been converted at prices

which are astonishingly low given
the cost to the rest of the world.

As an economist, I think it's right

that people who extract from
nature pay the due price.

We have to recognise that
nature has true value

that is taken into consideration
in national accounts.

We also need to start
producing affordable food

without expanding any
further into the forest.

This is indeed quite possible. One of
the biggest problems is incredible -

we actually waste about 40%
of the food that is produced.

If a farmer can't produce stuff in exactly
the right form, he has to throw it away.

And of course,
we throw it away from the plate.

If we could reduce that food waste,
it would go a long, long way

to making a more sustainable
agricultural system.

And also, we need to reduce
the amount of chemicals,

we've got to make sure we're
not degrading our soils.

We need the best of
the private sector

to show the others they can make a
profit and still conserve nature.

Another possible solution
is to make more rules.

There does have to be some standard.

We can't simply depend
upon people of goodwill

and institutions of goodwill to
do what is needed to be done.

If governments imposed legislation
that says we will not be allowing

the imports of products that are
produced in an unsustainable way,

then it levels the playing field.

Lots of people don't like
government regulation,

but there are some
tremendous success stories

of international legal cooperation.

Back in the 1980s, scientists figured
out chemicals used in aerosol spray

or used in refrigerants were
actually eating the ozone layer.

About a million tonnes of
CFCs are produced every year.

The nations of the world got together
and they banned these chemicals,

and the problem was solved because
once the manufacturing companies

started looking for alternatives,
they found them quite quickly.

So we shouldn't be demoralised,
because we know how to do this stuff.

It's a question of finding
the political will to do it.

We shape the future of
the planet irretrievably

by the decisions we take
in this next few years.

And indeed, in the months now,
as we come out of the Covid crisis.

For those of us who care about
the future of our planet,

we have to look at our lifestyles and we
can't look away from our own behaviours.

40 years ago, people consumed a good
deal less in the United Kingdom,

but there is no evidence that we
were unhappier then than we are now.

We can be more diligent about thinking
about what we're consuming and when.

It's really digging down,
saying, what's going on here?

Where does that come from? We need to
think about meat and dairy consumption.

That's not to say that none
of us should ever eat meat

or should cut all
dairy out of our diets.

But we have to demand that
they are produced sustainably.

Increasingly, I feel it's not
just about our current lifestyle,

but about the education of our
children on the way nature works.

There's a wave of revolution going
around, especially with young people.

We are waking up,
we are realising that the planet

is an integral part
of our existence.

If we don't act now, the youth of
today and the youth of tomorrow

are going to look back on this
generation with absolute horror.

"What were you thinking?!"

I want to tell our youth
we have taken the lessons,

that we will not allow
any other species

to walk this tragic
road of extinction.

One thing we do know is that
if nature is given the chance,

it can bounce back.

40 years ago, I had one of the most
memorable experiences of my life.

I was in the Virunga Mountains,
which straddle the borders of Uganda,

the Democratic Republic
of Congo and Rwanda.

And there I met some of the few
remaining mountain gorillas,

including a mischievous
youngster called Poppy.

As I sit here, there's more
meaning and mutual understanding

in exchanging a glance with a
gorilla than any other animal I know.

As I was preparing
to talk to camera,

Poppy was at my feet,
trying to take off my shoes.

It was an experience that has stayed
with me, but it was tinged with sadness

as I thought I might be seeing
some of the last of their kind.

In the 1970s, this population of
mountain gorillas was estimated

to be around 250
individuals in this area.

They were on the
brink of extinction.

Their habitat was under
very rapid conversion

from forest to agricultural fields.

This part of Rwanda was one of the poorest
and most densely populated in the country.

And the expansion of agriculture was
the only way for most people to survive.

There were tensions between
the park and communities.

We had many poachers coming,
setting snares, cutting bamboo.

Coexistence of humans
and mountain gorillas

really wasn't a reality
that many people saw.

But over the next few decades, the
situation would start to change.

Government in all three countries,
conservation organisations

and local communities
started to work together

with an emphasis not
just on the gorillas,

but on the people
that live with them.

We have over 200 rangers,
and their jobs

is to see every gorilla
and check on the habitat.

And since 2005, the government set
up a tourism revenue sharing scheme.

A portion of the price that a
tourist pays is actually reserved

for those communities adjacent.

The result is that the
conversion of habitat

for agricultural
production actually ceased.

And the population has recovered.

30 babies were born in
this park last year,

and we know that these
gorillas are going to grow.

No-one will be a
victim of poachers.

So, things have changed.

Their numbers have just
reached and exceeded 1,000.

This change has not happened overnight,
but if it can be achieved here,

where human population
pressure is so high,

where the politics can be very complicated,
especially among different states,

I believe it can be
achieved elsewhere as well.

Poppy grew up and actually was a
very long-lived mountain gorilla

and had many offspring.

Ururabyo Is right there.

Ururabyo is actually
the daughter of Poppy.

Ururabyo means flower.
She is shining flower in this park.

Ururabyo also has a daughter.


To see Poppy's daughter and
granddaughter thriving is thrilling.

It just shows what we can achieve
when we put our minds to it.

I do truly believe that together
we can create a better future.

I might not be here to see it,
but if we make the right decisions

at this critical moment, we can
safeguard our planet's ecosystems,

its extraordinary biodiversity
and all its inhabitants.

What happens next is
up to every one of us.