Back in 2018, Sir David Attenborough’s speech at COP24, held in Katowice, Poland, was one of the final triggers that led us to establishing Plastic Free Home.
Speaking then, Sir David warned: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.”
He went on to add that “Time is running out” and that “If we don’t take action the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
In his closing remarks, he said: “Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.”
At the time, we described the moment as a “generation defining speech”, and in many ways it was. We certainly thought that he would struggle to top it.
But Sir David did just that in addressing world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow on 1 November 2021. Listening to his words for even a fourth and fifth time left a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat. Watching it together as a family, with our two young children, was especially poignant.
Sir David, in arguably one of his most impassioned speeches ever (which is clearly saying something), cautioned that humanity is “already in trouble” but suggested that our motivation “must not be fear but hope” for change.
He asked: “Is this how our story is due to end? A tale of the smartest species doomed by that all too human characteristic of failing to see the bigger picture in pursuit of short-term goals?”
Urging everyone to “rewrite our story”, Sir David powerfully put the situation into perspective, adding: “Perhaps the fact that the people most affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generation but young people alive today.”
“It comes down to this. The people alive now and the generation to come will look at this conference and consider one thing – did the number stop rising and start to drop as a result of commitments made here?” he continued.
Evoking the hope he talked of in answering his own question, Sir David concluded: “There’s every reason to believe that the answer can be yes. If working apart we are forces powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it.”
He ended: “That desperate hope is why the world is looking to you and why you are here.”
Let us too hope that we have not already witnessed the defining moment of COP26 and that world leaders and all of us can come together to achieve what Sir David said must be our shared aim: “To turn this tragedy into a triumph.”
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