In my view naturalist, author and broadcaster David Attenborough is a living treasure. For decades he has brought the astonishing stories of our natural world to living rooms across the globe through his beautifully produced television documentaries. Now there is a narrative version in his trilogy of books Life. Living Planet: The Web of Life is the second in the series.
I admit that I am usually more drawn to stories about people in my non-fiction reading. However, Attenborough’s fascinating insights into the ways in which organisms, insects, plants, animals, reptiles and birds adapt to the many different environments on our planet drew me in. There is plenty of drama, humour and mystery, told in the author’s infectiously enthusiastic style.
The book answers intriguing questions such as:
Why do elephant seals stop their battles with each other once a year, while they grow new hair?
How do seagulls perch on icebergs without their featherless feet and legs freezing?
How do giant worms with no mouths or gut, survive in jets of hot water, deep on the ocean floor?
Why are holes in trees of the northern forests fought over like Sydney houses at an auction?
Why are ants like dairy farmers?
Why is a sparrow’s heart twice the size of a mouse’s?
How can a female cichlid fish be likened to a pastry cook icing a cake?
The text is supported by sections of stunning photographs in the style we have come to associate with Attenborough’s work.
Attenborough’s deep concern for the future of our planet and its amazing biodiversity underlies the narrative and his final statement sums it up:
As far as we can tell, our planet is the only place in all the black immensities of the universe where life exists. We are alone in space. And the continued existence of life now rests in our hands.Living Planet: The Web of Life p292
Living Planet: The Web of Life is published by William Collins, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, in October 2021.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy.