In an inspiring speech, Sir David Attenborough explains why he believes the ethos and principles of World Land Trust (WLT) are the most effective ways of saving the planet’s threatened species
“The money that is given to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect on the wild world than almost anything I can think of”, said Sir David at a recent event organised by London law firm Charles Russell. The event was designed for their clients to hear more about the work of WLT.
Sir David has supported our charity since it was founded in 1989 but for staff here at WLT he is much more than a patron – as one of the greatest natural historians he is our inspiration, the reason many of us chose to work to help protect the world’s wild places.
We are all passionate about the mission and principles of WLT – to buy threatened land across the world and turn it into protected nature reserves, to always work with in-country partner organisations so the ownership of the land remains in the hands of local people, to keep our overheads as low as possible and to be transparent about where donations are spent. But hearing Sir David speak so passionately about his support for WLT was a humbling experience for all of us.
Read an extract of Attenborough's speech:
“Just saving a single species of course is important, but it’s only important because it’s an indication of something. So what you need, if you’re going to conserve the wildlife of the world, is land. The World Land Trust knows that if that land – in that remote part of the world – is to be saved, the people who can save it are the people who live there and who know what the problem is; the people who have the enterprise and the conviction to do something about it.
“The money that is given to the World Land Trust, in my estimation, has more effect on the wild world than almost anything I can think of. The World Land Trust, in my estimation, is leading the way. […] the support that is given to the World Land Trust is support that goes directly to the place where it’s needed; to the people – not here or to any other capital city of the western world – but to the people who live on that land, who will care for that land in the way that only they can and in the way only they understand.”
Big business and the population boom
Speaking to an audience of lawyers, city investors and business people during the lecture entitled “Biodiversity and Business: The Cost of Life on Earth”, Sir David stressed the crucial role that corporations had in supporting conservation work across the world; a duty to invest in the future of our planet.
The cost of land is escalating at a staggering rate as demand for development continues to spiral; just a few years ago WLT could fund the purchase of threatened tropical forest in Brazil for £50 an acre. Today, that same land costs around £400 an acre.
Out of all WLT’s funding, over 60 per cent comes from corporate support. Our regular individual supporters are crucial and the backbone of our charity’s work, but without the combined commitment of big businesses we could not afford to buy land in many parts of the world, such as India and Borneo where development of land and population growth is dramatically driving up the cost of land. This has devastating consequences for some of the world’s poorest people; as land is disappearing to make way for development, people are forced to live ever closer to India’s wild animals – conflict is inevitable and the death toll increasing.
Sir David commented that since he became involved in conservation the world’s population has tripled. “Without the natural world, mankind is doomed”, he said. “We are dependent on the natural world for the very air we breathe and every particle of food we eat. Many people, including me, would say we are dependent on it for our very sanity. We can accommodate that by looking after the natural world and making sure mankind doesn't spread willy-nilly over every square yard of the globe.”
Sir David’s speech was complemented by talks from Simon Barnes (WLT Council Member, author, naturalist and Chief Sports writer for The Times) and Malcolm Preston, a Global & UK Leader of Sustainability and Climate Change at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have supported WLT for several years.
- Watch a video of the event
- Read more about Sir David’s support for WLT
- Discover why Simon Barnes is inspired by WLT’s work
- Learn about PricewaterhouseCoopers’ corporate support
- Read an article in The Guardian on Sir David’s speech