A Life On Our Planet — What We Can Do To Help
When you think about it, as photographers, many of us rely on the natural beauty of the world through landscapes, nature, wildlife and macro photography. But right now our planet is under attack, it has been and continues to be decimated by us - humans.
As a photographer, I’ve witnessed first hand the devastating effects of human exploitation, from deforestation in Borneo to the complete disappearance of turtles and large fish species on the same reefs in just the space of a decade and I think the Covid situation highlighted to many our relationship with nature.
A recent documentary by David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet has been the topic of much discussion recently, and having watched it I decided it was something the team here at KTE would benefit from watching too.
We took an afternoon last week to watch this eye-opening witness statement from the BBC broadcaster. Currently streaming on Netflix, the film documents the devastating changes to our wilderness that Attenborough has personally witnessed over his 60-year career.
Whilst breathtaking and astounding, one thing that stood out for me was that the documentary failed to offer much about what we could do on a personal level. It highlighted the problems of habitat loss, overfishing, and rising levels of pollution, and stressed the importance of ‘re-wilding’ our planet. It provided some information about changing our diets and reducing waste too, but I felt it didn’t provide enough detail on how or where I could find further information to take action.
So, as a responsible business, we decided to take action for ourselves and have made some significant changes, this has included changing all of our studio lighting to low energy LEDs, we also switched our heating to lower energy Infra-Red and have a firm recycling policy. Many of our staff have switched to largely vegetarian diets and we’re encouraging forms of zero-carbon transport for commuting to work.
To help further we thought we’d put together some useful resources that will help provide information and possible solutions to some of the major issues covered in the documentary and I would thoroughly encourage you to watch the documentary yourself as it is a real eye-opener and comes directly from the experiences of one of the most respected and trustworthy people in that field.
Let’s look at four of the key problems and what we can all to do help.
1. Habitat loss & deforestation
So what can we do to help? We can help reduce our impact by switching to more plant-based diets and reducing our intake of meat (especially beef). We can also take steps to ensure the meat we do eat is from well-managed sources that use sustainable practices.
Avoiding products that use palm oil is another step we can take. By reducing our demand for these products, we’ll be helping to reduce deforestation. Cutting your meat consumption by half or even a third will hugely benefit the planet.
The issue of overfishing goes back as far as the 1800s, when human demand for blubber decimated the whale population. Now, 200-years later, a lack of regulation has left many of our fish species vulnerable to large-scale industrial fishing practices, resulting in depleted populations and unbalanced ecosystems.
Industrial fishing practises include factory ships using nets 11km across and some so deep that entire swathes of the seabed are also destroyed. Millions of unwanted species such as turtles, dolphins and other cetaceans get trapped in these nets and also die, meaning the diversity of our ocean species is such now that their is a huge imbalance in the food chain, with jelly fish and squid populations soaring as they see their predator numbers depleted.
As individuals, we can ensure that the fish we eat is also from sustainable sources, look out for labels on food packaging that indicate well-managed, sustainable fisheries. We also need to promote dedicated no-fish zones. As mentioned in the documentary, these provide safe areas for fish populations to recover and, as a result, help provide more sustainable fishing in the adjacent areas. Again we’ve put links below and on our blog to these websites where you can find out more.
3. Individual carbon emissions & global warming
That quick five-minute drive to the shops, that outside light left on last night, that pair of shoes you ‘needed’… These ‘small’ things all contribute to the carbon emissions that are increasing and contribute to global warming.
Co2 levels in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been for 800,000 years. The last time they were this high the polar regions had no ice and whilst that might sound like an interesting prospect, keep in mind that sea levels were also 30m higher. If this were to happen, it would put every coastal city on earth, from New York to Sydney, underwater.
And although the earth’s climate has fluctuated many times, from before the era of the dinosaurs to now, it has never done so in such a short period of time.
Planetary temperatures have changed before but over hundreds of thousands of years - not just a few decades - these longer shifts in climate have always allowed life to evolve with them, but now animals such as walrus, polar bears, albatross and penguins are unable to keep pace with these rapid changes in their habit and biosphere.
We can reduce our carbon emissions in almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Making small changes to our homes, electricity consumption, water usage, and travel choices can make a big difference.
Switching to renewable energy sources where possible is another way we can make a difference. We can also invest in (or choose banks or pension schemes that invest in) renewable and sustainable energy sources, we can switch to more eco-friendly transport methods, and stop purchasing things we don’t really need.
4. Land & sea pollution
As the human population, which currently stands at about 7.8 billion, continues to grow (it was just 3.7 billion 60 years ago) so too does the amount of waste we produce. This waste is overwhelming our land and oceans, with various forms of pollution now present in the most remote areas of every continent and the deepest parts of our oceans.
In 2019, in response to the problem, I created an image that represented the mess we are leaving to future generations to help raise awareness about this problem, but we can all do more.
Key to reducing any form of pollution, and to help ease the burden on our planet in general, is to avoid waste. There are numerous ways we can do this, one of which is to reduce our use of non-recyclable or non-decomposable plastics and materials.
Recycling and reusing are two other ways that can help reduce pollution. In addition to reducing the number of single-use plastics in circulation, recycling and reusing help conserve natural resources and saves energy.
A Life On Our Planet paints a desperate picture, but as Attenborough points out, there is still time for us to fix things. But we can’t wait for government action or intervention, simply because governments don’t want to be the ones to implement anything considered draconian or unpopular, and given their short stay in power they often don’t get to implement things that will result in lasting change.
The problems highlighted in this video and the changes we can make are small things that we can all do, and if we all do, then they are things that will make a big difference. It’s not time to just talk about this - that time for that has passed. It’s time to start doing, before it really is too late. We all need to play our part or we might just find that there’s really not many nice things left to photograph.