I don't like rats, but there's not much else I don't like. The problem with rats is they have no fear of human beings, they're loaded with foul diseases, they would run the place given half the chance, and I've had them leap out of a lavatory while I've been sitting on it.
At a time when it's possible for thirty people to stand on the top of Everest in one day, Antarctica still remains a remote, lonely and desolate continent. A place where it's possible to see the splendours and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic and, what's more, witness them almost exactly as they were, long, long before human beings ever arrived on the surface of this planet. Long may it remain so.
We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that's what's happening. Too many people there. They can't support themselves - and it's not an inhuman thing to say. It's the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it's going to get worse and worse.
You've got to be fairly solemn [about the environment]. I mean the mere notion that there are three times as many people on Earth as there were when I started making television. How can the Earth accommodate them? When people, including politicians, set their faces against looking at the consequences-it's just unbelievable that anyone could ignore it.
Very few species have survived unchanged. There's one called lingula, which is a little shellfish, a little brachiopod about the size of my fingernail, that has survived for 500 million years, but it's survived by being unobtrusive and doing nothing, and you can't accuse human beings of that.
There's a small worm called Loa Loa Filariasis. This parasite can survive in one environment exclusively- namely, underneath the skin and inside the eyes of human beings. Children and the elderly in tropical regions (usually the poorest) are the most widely affected. A painful, slow death is virtually certain. The worm can actually live in the host for 17 years before the host finally dies.
The future of life on earth depends on our ability to take action. Many individuals are doing what they can, but real success can only come if there's a change in our societies and our economics and in our politics. I've been lucky in my lifetime to see some of the greatest spectacles that the natural world has to offer. Surely we have a responsibility to leave for future generations a planet that is healthy, inhabitable by all species
This last chapter .. may have given the impression that somehow man is the ultimate triumph of evolution, that all these millions of years of development have had no purpose other than to put him on earth. There is no scientific evidence whatever to support such a view and no reason to suppose that our stay here will be any more permanent than that of the dinosaur.
If I were beginning my career today, I don't think I would take the same direction. Television is at a crossroads at the moment. And although I am not up to date technologically, I suspect that somewhere out there people are conveying things about natural history by means other than television, and I think if I were beginning today, I'd be there.
I don't think whole populations are villainous, but Americans are just extraordinarily unaware of all kinds of things. If you live in the middle of that vast continent, with apparently everything your heart could wish for just because you were born there, then why worry? [...] If people lose knowledge, sympathy and understanding of the natural world, they're going to mistreat it and will not ask their politicians to care for it.
Sentimentalising is anathema, as far as I am concerned. It leads you into ethical problems about violence and killing and eating meat. The whole world becomes topsy-survy if you impose moralities that were evolved within human society on what a blowfly or what a parasite does... there are lots of emotions you can deduce from an animal's behaviour that are correct, but when you start saying it's feeling guilty or thinking or a loved one or mourning, you must be very careful of those feelings.
The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.
Using his burgeoning intelligence, this most successful of all mammals has exploited the environment to produce food for an ever increasing population. Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it's time we controlled the population to allow the survival of the environment.
I remember when we were in the World Cup in Australia and I had to win the singles against Tony Payne, best of seven legs, to win it. I was 2-0 down but ended up beating him I suffer much less than many of my colleagues. I am perfectly able to go to Australia and film within three hours of arrival.
I had a huge advantage when I started 50 years ago - my job was secure. I didn't have to promote myself. These days there's far more pressure to make a mark, so the temptation is to make adventure television or personality shows. I hope the more didactic approach won't be lost.
I'd like to see the giant squid. Nobody has ever seen one. I could tell you people who have spent thousands and thousands of pounds trying to see giant squid. I mean, we know they exist because we have seen dead ones. But I have never seen a living one. Nor has anybody else.
Human beings, because we're so clever, have removed every single one of those population limiting factors... So nothing controls our increase in numbers except our own wish. Since I first started making television programs, the population of the world has increased three times. That's an extraordinary notion. Can it increase four times? Can it increase five times? The Earth is a finite size. So a point will eventually come when we run out of food, when we run out of space and when we will have destroyed most of the natural world. So ought we to do something about it... Read more »