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5 Reasons Why David Attenborough’s ‘A Life On Our Planet’ Might Be Our Last Hope

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If you’re wondering what to do over the weekend, here’s a suggestion: put on some Netflix, play David Attenborough’s new documentary, become enchanted by the wonder that is planet Earth, and then weep when you realise what we’ve done to it.

Or you could just set the alarm for Sunday morning and sleep for a good 12 hours straight.

Then again, turning off the alarm on our planet is what first got us into this mess. So maybe now is not the time to snooze and wake up.

As the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, our future as it stands now, is too uncertain. Climate change is at a tipping point, the global economy is on the verge of total collapse, the threat to democracy worldwide looms large, gender equality may be set back by decades, and we are currently facing a mental health epidemic. 

While our government attempts to handle the crisis, there is one crucial question that is not being asked, why is this happening to us? 

So now is a perfect time to watch A Life On Our Planet and understand that the pandemic that we are looking at today has been coming for decades. This was not just preventable; it was known.

So why were we not prepared? And what do we do now?

I’m going to give you five reasons why you need to watch David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet and hopefully, unlike the generations before; you will listen:

Sir David Attenborough

A broadcaster and natural historian, Sir Attenborough has worked extensively with the BBC Natural History Unit. Now 93, he is perhaps best known for his Life Documentary Series, the latest of which is A Life On Our Planet. He is considered a national treasure by the UK and has done tremendous work to raise awareness about the climate crisis, wildlife conservation and sustainable living. Since he was a little boy, he was fond of collecting fossils, travelling to the remotest parts of the world and fascinated by the process of evolution.

He is probably one of the few people who can make nature enjoyable. Imagine your grandfather telling you a story about all of humanity and instead of ending it with a morality lesson, choosing to end it with a hopeful message of growth, change and taking responsibility.

david attenborough
David Attenborough is considered a national treasure by the UK and has done tremendous work to raise awareness about the climate crisis, wildlife conservation and sustainable living.

Degradation Of Flora and Fauna

In 1937, the world population was 2.3 billion, the carbon in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million, and the remaining wilderness was 66%. As of 1997, the global population was at 5.9 billion, the carbon in the atmosphere was at 360 parts per million, and the remaining wilderness was at 46%.

In 2020, we have overfished 30% more than our current fish stocks; we cut down 15 billion trees every year, we’ve reduced our freshwater populations by 80%. Half of the fertile land on earth is farmland. 70% of the birds on our planet are domestic birds, the majority of which are chickens.

We account for one-third of the weight of mammals on this planet. 60% of the mammals are those we raise to eat and the rest, which is nearly wild animals is only 4%. The earth is now for us, not us for the planet.

Paving The Way Towards Our Impending Doom

Science predicts that a child born in 2020 will witness the following:

  • In the 2030s the Amazon forest will be cut down to a dry savannah leading to enormous species loss which will alter the global water cycle.
  • The Arctic will become free of ice and it will no longer be able to reflect sunlight leading to a faster rate of global warming;
  • In the 2040s, frozen soils will thaw and release methane which is far more potent than carbon dioxide and will only make the climate crisis more catastrophic;
  • In the 2050s, coral reefs will die which will result in a crash in fish populations;
  • In the 2080s global food production will enter a crisis as the soils become infertile while the weather will become even more unpredictable;
  • In the 2100s our planet will become 4 degrees Celsius warmer making large parts of the earth uninhabitable and culminating in a mass population extinction event.

But, Can We Change Our Future?

There is hope. This is why you need to watch this. Every other species on the planet reaches a maximum population point, a stage where it peaks, where it can consume the finite resources available without overwhelming the world.

Humans, however, have been able to manipulate this natural algorithm and become quite profuse as a species, growing and growing and growing, like the dinner guests at a party who carry on and on and on until they become a threat to the very survival of their host. This is our relationship with our planet. We are the virus, not COVID-19.

The potential lies in three necessary administrative zones: public healthcare, education and population. An excellent example of that would be Japan, where, with better access to healthcare and education, the public has made its own independent decision to plan their families, have fewer children and the population has quite naturally levelled out.

The focus has to be not on the iniquity of the community but on providing better opportunities for everyone and raising the overall standard of living. As Yuval Noah Harari said in his best-selling book Sapiens:

Propagation of mankind does not mean the propagation of happiness. It actually means a scourge of suffering. 

So, What Can You Do?

I am not a nihilist. I am just like you, completely lost about what’s going on. But just like you, I am watching, I am listening, and I am learning. When my friends asked me what I wanted to do for my 28th birthday, I told them I was going to adopt trees with the World Wildlife Fund. My friends were quite deflated, or maybe they felt that I was overinflated, but the truth is, pleasure does not bring happiness.

Greed does not bring happiness. Excess does not bring happiness. I am a Buddhist, and I am always searching for joy, and I am also a human rights activist, so I concern myself not only with my pleasure but the pleasure of as many living beings as I can reach. Our collective joy lies in helping the natural world and rewilding the planet.

This is not like the ecology lecture that you attended in college; this is the cold, hard, stark reality. I ask you to watch this documentary, not to appeal to your humanity but to your sanity. It makes good sense to know what is going on, and it makes even better sense to do whatever we can for a sustainable lifestyle.

You can choose to go childless as many couples are doing today or follow a one-child policy. You can ban plastic. You can eat less meat or more of locally-grown, fresh, organic produce. You can cut down on overconsumption and increase reuse. You can travel on foot or by bicycle or by public transport. You can go paper-free and completely digital. You can get a compost bin. You can donate to environmental organisations. We can lobby our local government to invest in renewable energies and phase out non-renewable fuels entirely. There are so many things that you and I can do, but we will not do any of it until we get the big picture.

In the end, I am recommending this documentary for you and your kids and their kids. And I’m hoping that you and I turn out to be, maybe not as good as Jane Fonda, the prominent actress and fiery activist, but at least better than Donald Trump, President of the United States, who when asked about global warming by a climate scientist, said that we are just going to have to turn up the air-conditioning. 

I know we can’t all be Greta Thunberg but let’s not be that guy.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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