A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

“We moved from being a part of nature to being apart from nature.”

I’m baaaaaccccck! I passed my program with flying colours and can now relax with my books again.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 274 pages.
Read from December 9, 2020 to December 15, 2020.

Outside of my obsession with cats, if you know anything about me, it’s how much I love nature documentaries. I don’t care for TV or movies but a good nature documentary I am always in for. This brings me to Sir David Attenborough, the narrator KING of nature documentaries. I will watch anything with this man in it. His voice is soothing, entertaining, and captivating. It will be a sad day for this planet when this man passes.

This book is a testament to Attenborough’s life and work, it is his “witness statement” as he refers to it. The book is part autobiographical as it discusses the beginnings of Attenborough’s interest in nature and our world when he was just a child, to how he got involved with the BBC and became the figure that we know today. However, this is to give credence to the message and statement that Attenborough wants to leave you with. Attenborough wants to bring to your attention to the rapid decline of biodiversity and changes in our world that he has personally witnessed throughout his life in exploring our world and all of its inhabitants. Attenborough discusses how we got to this place of decline with solutions that we can take now to prevent and heal the current damage. His tone is intensely urgent but non-judgemental and still very hopeful. At 93 years old he wants you to know what change has happened in his lifetime alone and putting into words a lasting statement of what he dedicated his life to. Attenborough hopes that future generations can take action and reap the benefits of a healthy and sustainable planet and future.

“We have come as far as we have because we are the cleverest creatures to have ever lived on Earth. But if we are to continue to exist, we will require more than intelligence. We will require wisdom.”

This book is meant to alarm you and make you feel uncomfortable but it also talks about people and businesses that are doing their part and how you have the power to as well. Attenborough’s writing is as cohesive and soothing as his voice making for a pleasurable read.

“We often talk of saving the planet, but the truth is that we must do these things to save ourselves. With or without us, the wild will return.”

Is Attenborough doing enough? Many vegans would argue that no, he is not. Attenborough is not a strict vegan or vegetarian though, he has, in recent years, substantially reduced his meat intake. Attenborough may not be vegan or vegetarian but he has a voice that he is using and that people will listen to. As a vegetarian myself, I believe that this a deeply personal choice that you cannot force it upon people and that real change comes with informed choices. With work like Attenborough’s and with him lending his voice to such an essential and necessary cause, it helps people make more scientifically backed, ethical, and informed choices in their own time. One of the reasons that Attenborough is so successful is that he is palatable and reaches people from all walks of life. He also has a firm belief in humanity to make good choices that will improve the life of everything on this planet. This delicate balance in advocacy that creates urgency and not fear, choice and not threats, is why his work is so valued and why he has reached so many.

“Everything is set for us to win this future. We have a plan. We know what to do. There is a path to sustainability. It is a path that could lead to a better future for all life on Earth. We must let our politicians and business leaders know that we understand this, that this vision for the future is not just something we need, it is something, above all, that we want.”

If I could recommend one wholesome and thought-provoking book to help you realise the state of our planet and how it’s not too late to make a difference, it would be this one.

“All we require is the will. The next few decades represent a final opportunity to build a stable home for ourselves and restore the rich, healthy and wonderful world that we inherited from our distant ancestors. Our future on the planet, the only place as far as we know where life of any kind exists, is at stake.”

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 263 pages.
Read from March 14, 2017 to March 22, 2017.

This is the last book I tackled in the Canada Reads 2017 shortlist. I happy to have all five of the book read and reviewed before the debates take place starting on March 27th. This is the one non-fiction submission in the shortlist and while it was not my favourite book the content of the book is a warning that we should all heed.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik to an Inuk mother and a white father. Her book recalls fond memories of country foods included seal, whale and caribou, as well as dog sledding trips, and hunting. She was shortly shipped off to Southern parts of Canada as per government regulations for schooling. As she got older she saw how the environmental and cultural changes were taking a massive toll on the Inuk people. Their whole life was be altered against their will and they were not adapting to the changes well. After failing to become a doctor, Sheila became involved locally and internationally in helping improve the way of life for her people. While not initially meaning to be an environmentalist, it became clear that the biggest problem facing her people was climate change.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), from around the world settle and find their way to the coldest points on earth. These pollutants poison animals and contaminate the food the the Inuks eat which inadvertently poisons them. Climate change is a real and is being seen in Arctic first. The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change. Sheila’s book is memoir, but it is really more of warning of what is to come if we do not take action. She goes through heartbreaking details of the suffering that her people have had to endure at the selfishness of others and is looking for justice and help, not only for her own people, but to ensure that the rest of the world is protected.

Shelia has been given numerous awards and accolades for her work, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 along side Al Gore. For a full list of her awards and honours, click here.

The information in this book is undoubtedly valuable and of extreme importance, however I didn’t sign up to read and poorly delivered essay full of committee meeting details. Portions of the book became tedious with this type of detail and detracted from the important message that Sheila was trying to portray. As an editor, I would have focused on the emotional specifics of Sheila’s upbringing and the outcomes of the current climate situation for the Inuks. While it is important to recognize the extensive councils and impacts that Shelia has had, her novel is bogged down with political nuances that don’t add to her cause.

Is this “the is the one book that Canadians need now?” In terms of the cause, absolutely. This type of issue needs to be laid out for everyone to see. Just because you may not be suffering the effects of climate change at this time, it doesn’t mean that others are not and we need to do our part to get a handle on the climate change situation. However in terms of the readability of this book, I would say no.

I would still recommend this book for anyone that doubts or needs more information about climate change and especially for those who have little understanding of the ways different people live their lives.