Life & Culture

Ten Quotes of Note From Beloved Wildlife Broadcaster David Attenborough

As the documentarian and natural historian turns 93, we celebrate with ten quotes on the wonders of planet Earth

Sir David Attenborough’s contribution to the realms of television and natural history is immeasurable – it’s impossible to think of anyone who has devoted themselves more wholeheartedly to the task of inspiring interest in the world in which we live, and the remarkable different species with which we share it. The dulcet-toned broadcaster joined the BBC as a trainee in 1952, at the age of 28, having only watched one television programme in his life. But his aspirations were huge, and as swiftly as a Peregrine falcon dives for its prey, he had persuaded the corporation to produce Zoo Quest, the first nature programme to combine studio footage with location shoots, introducing the general public to a plethora of rare wild animals from the comfort of their sofas. 

Since then, Attenborough has made it his mission to bring viewers breathtakingly filmed – and charmingly narrated – documentaries from every corner of the Earth, taking us with him to meet the world’s most isolated tribes, to explore the darkest depths of the oceans, to brave biting Antarctic winters and more. Most recently, of course, he has determined to highlight the devastating effects of climate change across the globe via his latest series Our Planet, which aired on Netflix last month. 

Attenborough is a national treasure for more reasons than it’s possible to list but it seems fair to surmise that his enduring popularity lies predominantly in his contagious curiosity, his brilliant, very British sense of humour, and his seemingly endless pearls of wisdom. Here, as the tireless documentarian turns 93, with no signs of slowing down any time soon, we share ten of our favourite of his quotes, spanning the most revelatory moment of his life through his reaction to being confronted by a gang of knife-wielding men.

1. “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”

2. “The most single revelatory three minutes for me was the first time I put on scuba gear and dived on a coral reef. It’s just the unbelievable fact that you can move in three dimensions.”
3. “There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive.”
4. “About 70 or 80 men jumped onto the track, brandishing knives and spears. To say I was alarmed is to put it mildly… I walked towards this screaming horde of men, I stuck out my hand, and I heard myself say, ‘Good afternoon’.”
5. “It is vital that there is a narrator figure whom people believe. That’s why I never do commercials. If I started saying that margarine was the same as motherhood, people would think I was a liar.”

6. “I have never had a car. I could say this is because of environmental conscience. But the fact is I hate driving.”

7. “The whole of life is coming to terms with yourself and the natural world. Why are you here? How do you fit in? What’s it all about?”
8. “It is, surely, our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.”
9. “Young people: They care. They know that this is the world that they’re going to grow up in, that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives in. But, I think it’s more idealistic than that. They actually believe that humanity, human species, has no right to destroy and despoil regardless.”
10. “I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still.”

Our Planet is available to watch on Netflix now.