On November 20th, world famous naturalist, writer and television documentary filmmaker, Sir David Attenborough, was awarded the 2019 Chatham House Prize for his work, together with the head of the BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit, based in Bristol in the southwest of England. The award was for the Blue Planet 11 television documentary series, which exposed the extent of the damage caused by plastic in the world’s oceans.
Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, of which the Queen is patron, is Britain’s leading think tank,. Her Majesty herself was there to present the award to Sir David Attenborough and to Dr Julian Hector, Head of the BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit.
Asked in a Q and A session before the presentation of the award about his most memorable experience, Sir David recalled his experience with a female gorilla while filming in Rwanda. “I felt an enormous great thump on my head,” he said, “It was a female gorilla who had just come out of the bush and was interested in my teeth! She put this huge black hand in my mouth. While I was wondering what would happen next, I felt a weight on my feet. I looked down and there were two baby gorillas sitting on my feet undoing my shoelaces.
“That’s a moment I will never forget,” he said.
To the question, “Are we doing enough?” posed by the host, Karen Sack, President and CEO of Ocean Unite, Sir David replied, “We can never do enough because we have overrun the world. There are three times as many human beings on the planet as when I started making natural history programmes and they all require space to live and they all require food.
“The problems are piling up… We have still got a lot of people to convince in this world. There are still two or three large nations that don’t accept that we are ruining the world. I am sure that we will bring them round eventually, but it will take time. Meanwhile, we must do our best,” he said.
In presenting the award to Sir David, 93 years old, Her Majesty in congratulating him could not resist adding, “for those of us of a certain generation (she is also 93) we can take great pleasure in proving that age is no barrier to being a positive influence.”
Accepting the award, Sir David said, “Never has there been a greater need for international cooperation and international solutions. The atmosphere doesn’t have favourites among nations. We are citizens of the world and we must recognise that, and international cooperation is of paramount importance. If this international organisation (Chatham House) believes that what we have done helps convince people that we are all part of one world and just the one world belongs to us, then this award pleases me more than I can say.”
‘The Blue Planet 11’ (2017) television series is available to buy or as a download. There is also a book, ‘Blue Planet 11’, published by Ebury Publishing, UK.