Dear Sir David,
Many years ago as a boy, my mother went to great lengths to teach me about the beauty of the Australian bush. We moved here from the USA’s Northwest in 1979 when I was aged 7, and she instantly fell in love with the bushland here. From her I learned of the amazing diversity and immense scope of flora and fauna in this great country, and this fascination I garnered from our time in the bush still stays with me, some 33 years later. As I grew, this developed into a fascination with the natural world in all its forms, an interest in science, and an appreciation of the fragility of our dear planet.
But what really piqued my interest in nature and the natural world was on Sunday evenings, watching your documentaries, seeing things about the world which amazed, inspired and sometimes shocked me. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a killer whale lunging up onto the shore to snatch a seal from the beach, or the startlingly beautiful time-lapse photography you developed in “The Private Life of Plants”. To me, your documentaries were (and still are) the ultimate form of escapism, but instead of escaping into fantasies about dragons and spaceships, I escaped into reality, which is the best gift anyone can have bestowed upon them.
Obviously it is impossible for any one man to show the entire world to an audience during a lifetime, but your view on the world was sufficient for me to continue to learn, to seek out information on plants and animals, and to actually find them in the wild too.
If I had to choose one moment you showed me that had the most profound effect on my understanding of the natural world as it stands right now, I’d say the footage of the Australian lyrebird, mimicking not only the sounds of other adjacent species, but also that of the sounds of chainsaws and camera shutters. To me, this one short sequence encapsulates the ingenuity of nature, and also the way that mankind is continually encroaching upon the habitats of the natural world. A true moment of awe and melancholy.
I share your realism about the fate of the world we now find ourselves in. But here, where the truth of the situation is not a pleasant one, you manage to bring your message with a sense of infectious optimism, even when things can seem so dire. If we heed your words, and the words of those like you, we may be able to bring ourselves back from the brink, though as we all know, extinction is permanent.
I hope you know, as I’m sure you do, that your continual work in educating the world about the sheer breathtaking splendour of the natural world has been inspirational, not only to me, but to millions of people worldwide. Your enthusiasm and willingness to share what you’ve learned is an inspiration to us all.
These words are really only scratching the surface of what you have brought to the world. But what your work has done is bring to us an understanding of our fellow earth-inhabitants, our collective histories, and our prospective futures. You’ve revealed our nature. You’ve taught us, and learned with us.
Most importantly, you’ve shown us ourselves.
I cannot thank you enough.
Martin S Pribble
Martin S Pribble writes a blog at http://www.martinspribble.com/, mostly on the topics of religion, science, feminism and politics and tweets at @MartinPribble. He lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.