Sir David Attenborough Speaks to Earth’s Future at Davos

by Duane Nichols on January 28, 2019

Human beings are really “out of touch” with the natural world!

Attenborough: ‘If We Wreck the Natural World, We Wreck Ourselves’

From an Article by Lorraine Chow,, January 22, 2019

Britain’s Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity’s survival—is in our hands. “We can wreck it with ease,” Attenborough said. “We can wreck it without even knowing we are doing it. And if we wreck the natural world, in the end, we wreck ourselves.”

The Blue Planet narrator stressed that a healthy planet is essential for life itself, and yet people have never been more “out of touch” with the natural world.

“We have to recognize that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food that we take comes from the natural world. And that if we damage the natural world we damage ourselves,” Attenborough said to the Duke of Cambridge when asked about how young people can make a positive impact on the environment. “We are one coherent ecosystem. It’s not just a question of beauty or interest or wonder. It’s the essential ingredient, the central part of human life is a healthy planet,” Attenborough said.

Prince William asked the conservation advocate why some global leaders are “faltering” on tackling environmental challenges. “Because the connection between the natural world and the urban world, the human society, since the Industrial Revolution, has been remote and widening,” Attenborough said. “We didn’t realize the effects of what we were doing ‘out there.’ But now we are seeing that almost everything we do has its echoes, its duplications and implications across the natural world.”

He added that it was “difficult to overstate” the urgency of the climate change crisis. “We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all pervasive, the mechanisms we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening that we can exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it,” Attenborough said.

In the documentary series Blue Planet II, Attenborough gave viewers an unflinching look at the harmful impact of human activity on our oceans. “We have now to be really aware of the dangers of what we are doing. And we already know the plastic problems in the seas is wreaking appalling damage upon marine life. The extent of which we don’t yet fully know,” said in his chat with the prince.

Also in the interview, the legendary television icon spoke about how the world has changed since he started broadcasting in the 1950s: “I went to West Africa for the first time and it was a wonderland,” Attenborough said. “You’d just step off from the beaten track … and it seemed to me as a newcomer, unexplored and exciting and everywhere you turned you saw something new.”

“The human population was only a third of the size of what it is today … you really did get the feeling of what it might have been like to be in the Garden of Eden,” he continued.

Attenborough, who was honored at the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Awards for his leadership in the fight against climate change, remains hopeful about the planet’s future. “There’s a source of great optimism there, we have the knowledge, we have the power, to live in harmony with that natural world,” he said, according to the BBC.

Watch the full interview here:

Conversation with Sir David Attenborough and HRH The Duke of Cambridge

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Elizabeth Blackburn February 13, 2019 at 9:55 pm

Science needs to think globally. A Paris Agreement for research could be the answer.

By Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Washington Post, February 12, 2019

>>> Elizabeth H. Blackburn is a Nobel laureate and professor emerita at the University of California at San Francisco.

Over the past century, industrialized nations around the world have built robust government-funded national research enterprises, none more formidable than the United States’ National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Each of these organizations — including Japan’s RIKEN, Inserm in France, Britain’s Medical Research Council and the recently formed European Research Council — has advanced science by infusing the universal human impulse for discovery with national or regional pride.

Yet Pythagoras’ theorem does not apply to triangles drawn solely in Greece, nor does Mendeleev’s periodic table describe chemical elements found only in Russia, a point made by the great Russian playwright and physician Anton Chekhov with characteristic succinctness in his Notebook: “There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table; what is national is no longer science.”

Despite the unarguable success of the nationally focused model of science that has dominated the past hundred years, the truly vexing problems now facing humanity — such as environmental degradation; the global climate crisis and its effects on health; emerging infectious diseases and pandemics; and the need for alternative energy sources — call for building something new: a global framework to support fundamental scientific research that cleaves more closely to Chekhov’s ideal.

This week in Washington, scientists from around the world will exchange ideas at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science during 13 sessionsheld under the banner of “Cultivating Borderless Research,” reflecting a mounting interest among scientists in transcending national and regional barriers.

Fortunately, an inspiring model of international commitment for the common benefit already exists in the Paris Agreement for climate change mitigation. The 2015 agreement, which recognizes global climate change as one of the most daunting challenges faced by humankind, has the signatures of 194 nations plus the European Union, and lays out commitments to support the collective actions needed for long-term global benefit.

Though the Paris Agreement has been subject to criticism that it is based on aspirations rather than mandates, it is nonetheless an unprecedented achievement in global cooperation toward a shared and urgent goal and a powerful example of what humanity can achieve through inclusive, careful negotiations conducted in good faith.

By implementing the equivalent of a Paris Agreement for long-term, cooperative, international support of scientific research — to complement the nation-based organizations that have served us so well — we can better embrace far-sighted, strategic scientific planning.

Arming the world with collectively acquired new scientific knowledge would allow us to anticipate crises that ultimately affect us all, freeing us from the reactive stances we so frequently must adopt in response to unexpected challenges.

A global model would also provide the means to build a sustainable source of funding and freely shared scientific tools. When fiscal resources for science are bound up in national politics, year-to-year funding proposals can be unpredictable and even capricious.

The Paris Agreement crucially includes robust funding to achieve its objectives, via a Green Climate Fund that has so far attracted more than $10 billion in pledges. Notably, these pledges have come not just from affluent, highly industrialized countries but also from a diverse range of nations, including Mexico, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The current concentration of scientific activity in a small number of rich nations excludes the perspectives and talents of millions who stand ready to contribute to science. By actively sharing technology and data through a global framework and by building on current momentum to open the scientific publishing process to all, we can greatly accelerate the pace of discovery and increase the diversity and richness of the research we pursue.

One might wonder why such global issues should be of concern to a scientist such as myself, since my decades of work on telomeres — tiny units of DNA that cap and protect the ends of chromosomes — has focused on biological events at a microscopic scale.

But telomeres are known to be involved in several diseases, and they may play an important role in extending the quality of the human life span. Many environmental factors, from pollutants to stressful living conditions (including a lack of access to healthy food or experiencing discrimination), affect telomeres. These factors are themselves profoundly determined by large social and economic forces that do not respect national boundaries. So, as fulfilling as it has been to explore these intriguing subcellular structures at the lab bench, I have come to see that the view from my window is as important to my work as the view through my microscope.

I have presented preliminary ideas on a global science framework at several international forums and received an enthusiastic response. It is my hope that young scientists and future scientists just coming of age can imagine, and eventually realize, a global pact for science — a science based on shared goals and resources, transparency and strategic, long-range thinking. We would all stand to benefit.



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