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At 95 years old, Sir David Attenborough is still actively advocating for the environment. The British naturalist has spent his life studying nature and combining this knowledge with his unique perspective as a broadcaster. In recent years, his message has increased in urgency as precious ecosystems and species vanish. In 2021, a research vessel named RRS Sir David Attenborough in his honor launched. Now, Attenborough is receiving a further high honor—the Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award from UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The international award was presented to Attenborough for “his dedication to research, documentation, and advocacy for the protection of nature and its restoration,” according to UNEP's press release. The esteemed filmmaker began broadcasting his love of nature 70 years ago, bringing nature to the masses. He was an important figure from the inception of the environmental movement. This year is historic in several respects; it is the 50th anniversary of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, a pivotal moment.
Attenborough is known for his nine-part Life series, as well as more recent films such as The Green Planet and A Plastic Ocean. UNEP specifically points to his wide reach and magnetic abilities to influence people through the medium of film. His voice is a familiar one to many. Despite his rich knowledge base, his ultimate message is a simple one: the planet needs us to come together and care. “The world has to get together. These problems cannot be solved by one nation—no matter how big that single nation is. We know what the problems are and we know how to solve them. All we lack is unified action,” he said upon receipt of the award. He cites whales being pulled back from the brink of extinction as an example of how humanity can reach across borders in collective action. There is still a chance to save the Earth, Attenborough emphasizes across his many speeches and films. “All we need is the will to do so.”