Sir David Attenborough highlights destruction of the natural world within a generation

Sir David Attenborough delivering his lecture at DeMontfort Hall

‘If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves. We can only hope that the human race will slowly come to its senses and perhaps for the first time since recorded history began the human race- homo sapiens – will bury its differences and work together to try and protect the one essential powerful thing we have in common - which is the natural world.’ Sir David Attenborough speaking at the University of Leicester.

Renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough opened a new £1.5million galleries wing at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre – the building championed by his late brother Lord Attenborough.

Giving the Distinguished Chancellor’s Lecture, entitled Beauty in Nature, to a capacity audience at De Montfort Hall, Sir David also met with the media during his visit to the inclusive arts centre that bears his family’s name.

During the visit, Sir David reflected on his time growing up in Leicester, the work and legacy of his father as well as tackling issues that affect the natural world. He was accompanied by Lord Attenborough’s son, Michael Attenborough CBE with his wife, Karen, and Sir David’s daughter Susan Attenborough.

Sir David’s father Frederick Attenborough was the Principal of University College Leicester, which became the University of Leicester, and the three Attenborough brothers – Richard, David and John – grew up on campus in College House and attended the Grammar school next door, now the Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College.

Sir David said: “The natural world has been damaged and has deteriorated under our hands, and under our instruments, for the past generation, for at least 50 years if not more.

“The seeds of damage over the next decades are already planted. We can’t turn the clock back. I wish we could. The best we can hope to do is to slow down the damage. I am afraid it is the natural world that will pay the price - but it is not just the natural world that pays the price - we pay the price. Every mouthful of food we eat comes from the natural world. Every lungful of air we take comes - in its oxygen content - from the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.

“We can only hope that the human race will slowly come to its senses and perhaps for the first time since recorded history began the human race- homo sapiens – will bury its differences and work together to try and protect the one essential powerful thing we have in common which is the natural world.”

Speaking of the demise of species, he commented on the threats of extinction to creatures like the giant panda:

“What a terrible indictment of human beings that we should have living among us a creature that has evolved over tens of millions of years of evolution and we, just because we didn’t care, let it die out. That would be a symbol of how little we care about the natural world of which we are the inheritors.

“And how terrible it would be if an elephant - which has in many ways the same precarious hold on existence that the giant panda has - how terrible it would be if we could look at the next generation and say we let this extraordinary wonder and beauty disappear because we didn’t care. That surely would be a terrible crime for the human race.

“I think the hope of the world rests on the shoulders of young people and if I wanted to find somebody who was convinced about the importance of the natural world, I wouldn’t necessarily go to a politician, I would go to a 14-year-old who would speak with passion about these things and without conditional clauses. The natural world belongs to them and not the past.

“If I had to look anywhere for some straw of comfort to clutch on in what is otherwise a rather bleak prospect I think it is the youth. Young people are going to be the salvation.”

More on the Attenborough Arts Centre at www.attenborougharts.com

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