David Attenborough has been accused of betraying wildlife. So let’s ask his major critic to remake the greatest of all television programmes…
Death on Earth
A Natural History
by George Monbiot
GEORGE: I am now standing at the heart of the Ordovician extinction – and even here, it is ghastly. All around me, trilobites are dying in countless billions. It’s all dreadful.
GEORGE: I am now standing at the heart of the Devonian extinction – and it’s worst thing that has ever happened. Reef-builders are being wiped out, so are armoured fish. It’s perfectly hideous.
GEORGE: I am now standing at the heart of the Permian extinction – and it’s even worse than everything that’s happened before. Ten entire orders of insects are disappearing. All those lovely amphibians are going. 96 percent of all species are being wiped out before my eyes and it’s going to take 20 millions years for the earth to recover. So let us ask the truly important question: why does it bother?
GEORGE: I am now standing at the heart of the Triassic extinction – and it’s even worse than I expected. What will become of those archosaurs? Gone, gone, forever gone. It’s yet another blow raining down on the poor earth. It’s all ghastly beyond belief. Life? Don’t talk to me about life.
GEORGE: I am now standing at the heart of the Cretaceous extinction, and even here, it is teeming with death. Whatever became of the dinosaurs? We shall never see their like again, not unless you count birds, as some shallow people do. Better to concentrate on the ghastliness.
GEORGE: I am now rolling about on the jungle floor with a couple of gorillas — and it’s all absolutely ghastly. Shallow people rejoice in gorillas – in rainforests – in biodiversity. And after that, they might do something to try and save them. But what’s the point? Keep your mind on the hideous ghastliness and horrific futility of everything that walks or crawls or flies or swims, and you can’t go wrong. Does that make you feel like giving up? Well, so it bloody well should.