Saturday, February 9, 2013

* Attenborough's Hope

Unexpectedly Optimistic

Just when I want to throw the towel in and give up; just when I think global warming and cyber armageddon are inevitable disasters; Sir David Attenborough comes along with a three part series on PBS's  "Nature" summing up his 60-year career as a naturalist film maker, and holds out some hope.

Attenborough expected the Blue Whale to become extinct, but man-made treaties saved it; Attenborough expected Diane Fossey's gorillas to become extinct, but man-made preserves (some of which he himself created) saved them; Attenborough expected humankind's reckless greed to overwhelm the world, but the NASA space program's photos of earth gave people a vision of the planet as fragile, and efforts to reverse global warming have begun to gather strength.

At the end of the three-hour series  which begins with the 26-year-old Attenborough indifferently eating turtle eggs for breakfast, an act which appalls Attenborough today, we see  Attenborough seated alone on a  jungle hillside, musing about the glimmers of hope he has found in his lifetime when humans, unexpectedly,  decided to do the right thing.  

His final words to us at age  87, seated amid the jungle fauna, are a hope that humankind might continue to do the right things.
Suddenly, the camera, apparently on a helicopter, zooms out, and Attenborough's white hair and khaki pants become specks of hope on the mountainous  jungle incline.

I used to tell my classes, for the 25-years I was an English teacher, that my own guidance counselor told me I was "not college material," and I went on to get several college degrees anyway.

I continued, "It is adults' duty to open doors for young people, not to close them.  For all I know, one of you sitting in this class will invent a hydrogen-powered engine which will solve global warming; or find a cure for AIDS.
 Life is a mystery and a gift.  You live in the richest nation in the world, whose citizens invented the electric light bulb, the assembly-line for making automobiles, and the computer chip.  Be brave.  Be optimistic."

Or as David Attenborough says:  Be hopeful  humankind will do the right thing. 

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