Saving threatened habitats worldwide

The next David Attenborough

24 January, 2017 - 10:39 -- John Burton
John Burton and David Attenborough

Last week I had a very pleasant evening when I had dinner with Sir David Attenborough and a dozen other friends. I have known and worked with David on and off for over 30 years, and consequently I am often asked ‘Who will be the next David Attenborough?’  While this is on the face of it a fairly obvious question it is also rather naïve, as there is so much more to David’s achievements than this question gives credit for.

The public perception is often centred on David as a presenter of wildlife films on TV and as a conservationist. But this is almost his ‘retirement job’. Apart from having a staggering memory and intellect, David’s contribution to communications is far, far more than presenting TV programmes. Not only did he become Controller of BBC 2, he was responsible, at that time, for bringing colour TV to British audiences.

David’s knowledge of music and the arts is something most people do not know about, but is immediately apparent if you look at his achievements when Controller of BBC 2. In his living room a baby grand piano bears witness to his musical abilities.

There have, and will be, many presenters of natural history films on TV, but to my mind, the concept of a polymath such as David Attenborough with over 70 years of experience, ranging from being an animal collector for London Zoo to creating a programme on snooker, from a collector of ethnographica from the voyages of Captain James Cook to being a prolific author, ever being repeated is rather unlikely.

What has really impressed me over the past decade is how David, with all his knowledge and experience, has spoken out about controversial issues such as climate change and human population growth. And it is also impressive, how at the age of 90+, the younger generation are so engaged with him and inspired by him.

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