Speaker and activist received the United Nations’ highest environmental honor for a life dedicated to the investigation and preservation of nature
At the age of 95, broadcaster David Attenborough has been recognized by the UN as Champion of the Earth, an award offered by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), considered the highest environmental honor of United Nations.
The Champions of the Earth award is given to individuals, groups and organizations for their transformative impact on the environment and is the UN’s highest environmental honor. It recognizes outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector.
Sir David Attenborough received the award for his research, documentation and advocacy for the protection and restoration of nature. David’s television debut came in December 1954 on the BBC show Zoo Quest. Since then, David has started presenting various documentary series, following the natural history of the planet. It is estimated that his work has already been seen by some 500 million people worldwide.
According to UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, “Attenborough has dedicated her life to documenting the love story between humans and nature and sharing it with the world. If we have any chance of preventing climate and biodiversity collapse and cleaning up polluted ecosystems, it’s because millions of us fell in love with the planet it showed us.
In a statement sent to the press, the UN noted that “Attenborough’s career as a broadcaster, natural historian, author and conservationist spans more than seven decades. He is best known for his work with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, including documentaries such as Life on Earth, Living Planet, Our Planet and Our Blue Planet. Additionally, their fight to preserve and restore biodiversity, transition to renewable energy, mitigate climate change and promote plant-rich diets contributes to the achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Off the air, David also works for the environment, attending major summits like the 2015 climate change conference that led to the Paris agreement.
In 1982, at the tenth meeting of UNEP’s Governing Council, he told UN member states: “What you and I and other ordinary people around the world can do will not in itself save the natural world. The big decisions, the big disasters that we face, can only be taken care of by governments and that is why this organization is so important.
After all this time, the speaker and environmental activist says he remains optimistic and believes that we can act in time to avoid the catastrophic impacts caused by the action of humanity on the planet.
“The world must come together. These problems cannot be solved by a single nation, regardless of its size. We know what the problems are and we know how to solve them. All we need is unified action,” Attenborough said as he accepted the award. “Fifty years ago, whales were on the brink of extinction around the world. So people got together and now there are more whales in the sea than any human being has ever seen. If we act together, we can solve these problems.
Previous Champions of the Earth have been environmental justice advocate Robert Bullard (2020), environmental and indigenous rights advocate Joan Carling (2018) and plant biologist José Sarukhán Kermez (2016).