Legendary naturalist David Attenborough on Wednesday urged international action to tackle pollution as he received a prestigious award from Queen Elizabeth II, recognising the role his Blue Planet series played in highlighting the issue.
The 2019 Chatham House Prize was awarded in London to Attenborough and Julian Hector, head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, for the “galvanising impact” of the ‘Blue Planet II’ series on tackling ocean plastic pollution.
The Queen said she was “delighted” to hand over the award to the 93-year-old broadcaster, whose voice has for decades brought the natural world into homes across the world.
“This award recognises your many talents,” she told Attenborough, a long-time friend.
“For those of us of a certain generation, we can take great pleasure in proving that age is no barrier in being a positive influence,” she joked.
Attenborough issued a stark warning in his acceptance speech.
“International problems have never been more international, more crucial, more pressing that they are today,” he said.
“The atmosphere doesn’t have favourites among nations.
“Never has there been a greater need for international cooperation; We are citizens of the world and we must recognise that,” he added.
‘It’s their world’
Attenborough earlier called out “two or three” unnamed big nations for their lack of urgency on climate change, saying “I’m sure we will bring them around, but it’s going to take time.”
He also praised youth protesters around the world who had helped raise awareness of the issue through their programme of school strikes.
“The world belongs to the students, it’s their world, it’s not my world,” he said.
“They have every right to feel outraged and they should make that feeling clear. I hope now the point has been made.”
The global smash series ‘Blue Planet II’ highlighted the damage caused by discarded plastics to the world’s oceans and marine wildlife.
More than 150 million tonnes of plastic is now estimated to be in the world’s oceans.
“Plastic pollution is one of the gravest challenges facing the world’s oceans, and undoubtedly an international issue,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House.
“Sir David and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit played an instrumental role in helping to put this issue at the forefront of the public agenda.”
Attenborough said the response to the series had “amazed us all”.
“The strange thing about the polluting of the ocean is we have been talking about plastic for a long time, but in the mass media it is very mysterious when you make an impact and when you don’t.
“All we can do is go on about it,” he added.