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Nature Icon David Attenborough Tells Greta Thunberg He's 'Very Grateful' To Her

Ryan Ford 2 Jan 2020

Before 2019, few people had even heard of Greta Thunberg. By the end of the year, hordes of climate strikers had crowded streets around the globe in solidarity with her.

Lest you think it's just other kids cutting class to pack the streets, know that she has a big fan in Sir David Attenborough.

Sir David Attenborough has been trying to tell the world about the state of the Earth for decades.

Giphy | BBC America

The 93-year-old broadcaster is an icon in conservation circles, having started his career making nature documentaries back in the '50s, and he's still going strong today. He remains a forceful voice for the planet and has become a noteworthy presence on Netflix, where a whole new generation can learn from him through programs like Planet Earth, Blue Planet, and Our Planet.

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Those programs have helped spread Attenborough's message of environmental stewardship, something he believes is critical.

Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Attenborough_at_Great_Barrier_Reef.jpg

"Scientists understand in greater detail than ever before the impact we are having on the natural world, yet many people are unaware of the scale of this impact and the implications it has for us," he told Vanity Fair. "Consequently, tackling climate change and protecting nature are as much communications challenges as they are political or scientific ones."

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However, Sir David can rest assured that he has inspired that new generation, and it turns out he's just as inspired by them.

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At just 16 years of age, Sweden's Greta Thunberg has become a household name and has addressed the United Nations regarding climate change. Although Attenborough's career eclipses Thunberg's age many times over, he says he's grateful to her — and he did so to her face.

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At the end of a very eventful 2019, the radio program BBC Today invited Thunberg to guest edit for a day.

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Part of her time at the helm included a conversation with Attenborough, their first time speaking to each other and done over Skype because neither wanted to contribute to their carbon footprint to make a face-to-face meeting happen.

In a discussion moderated by the BBC's Mishal Husain, the pair spoke for a few minutes and although it didn't sound like Attenborough is ready to pass the torch of climate activism along just yet, he was full of praise for young Thunberg.

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Prompted specifically about her achievements, Attenborough didn't hesitate to point out how Thunberg had managed to break through where he had not.

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"Oh, she has achieved things that many of us who have been working on it for 20-odd years have failed to achieve," he said. "That is, you have aroused the world."

"I'm very grateful to you," he said. "We all are, really."

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Thunberg, for her part, readily acknowledged that Attenborough's work has played a big role in her life as well.

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"I think everyone is grateful for you, for taking on the climate crisis and on the environmental crisis," she said. "I hope you understand how much difference you have made and that we are all very thankful for that. So thank you, thank you for dedicating your life to this.

"When I was younger, documentaries about the natural world and what was happening, what was going on, that was what made me decide to do something about it."

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Attenborough also noted that youngsters like Thunberg had had a noticeable effect on their elders.

Giphy | BBC America

"Oh yes, undoubtedly, people of all ages now, and it's on the front line and you've put it there. The motto which is: 'Look, the world belongs not to my generation but to your generation, the world belongs to young people,' is a very powerful one," he said. "And you have made it an argument that people haven't been able to dodge.

"We don't want to spend our time marching through the streets, but we have to, and you've shown very great bravery in doing that."

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Attenborough also shared some of his hard-won wisdom about climate activism with Thunberg.

"It's very difficult to know when you get that sort of degree of pressure, how long can you sustain it? How long can you go on saying the same thing with the same impact?"

"I don't know why people are listening to me," Thunberg said. "I don't know how long it will last, I just know that right now people are listening to me and I need to use that opportunity and to try to get out as much as I can during that time."

You can watch the whole conversation between Thunberg and Attenborough here.

h/t: BBC Today

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