Sunday Snippet: Sir David Attenborough

“There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive. This is the story of how a few of them came to be as they are.”

I’ve always enjoyed watching nature documentaries. It’s fascinating to peer into the lives of different creatures from all around the world, as small as insects and as massive as whales. And it is positively undeniable that one of the best narrators for such programs is one Sir David Attenborough.

You probably know Attenborough best from the BBC series that he has done, compiled into the Planet Earth and Life collections, which have been subsequently re-cut into Disney’s Earth (albeit without Attenborough’s narration). His career as a nature documentary presenter has seen him travel to some very remote places, catching just a glimpse into the secret world of many elusive animals.

The footage that they’re able to get is positively astounding, but the sense of enthusiasm and childlike curiosity that Attenborough brings to these documentaries is positively infectious. You can’t help but to get as excited as he does about spotting the unique behaviors of the various animals. And in 1979’s Life on Earth, Attenborough points out something so simple, yet so significant. Even though there are millions of species on this little blue planet of ours and they are all quite different from one another, they all have precisely the same ultimate goal: to survive and to pass their genes on to the next generation.

This illustrates an incredibly powerful life lesson. Even when faced with the exact same problem, we can come up with millions of possible solutions, all of which are equally viable and have withstood the test of time. To borrow a line from Jurassic Park, life finds a way… though it can take some trial and error to get it right. And then you’ll need to adapt to new circumstances again.

“I am at the very centre of the great white continent, Antarctica. The South Pole is about half a mile away. For a thousand miles in all directions, there is nothing but ice. And, in the whole of this continent, which is about one-and-a-half times the size of the United States and larger than Europe, there is a year-round population of no more than 800 people. This is the loneliest and coldest place on Earth, the place that is most hostile to life. And yet, in one or two places, it is astonishingly rich.”

Just as we learn there are many effective ways to address the same problem, we also learn that even the most inhospitable of situations can still prove fruitful to the right individuals with the right strategies. This quote comes from 1993’s Life in the Freezer, where Attenborough braves the unbearable cold of the South Pole. Even when conditions are at their worse, life finds a way.

And so can you. Stay vigilant, keep learning, and never lose your natural curiosity for the world around you.