How many 94-year-olds do you follow on Instagram?
If the answer is less than one, then you are not one of the 4.7 million people who have already followed David Attenborough since he joined the platform last week.
Even more impressive, it took the acclaimed naturalist and television presented just 4 hours and 44 minutes to reach 1 million followers. That’s the fastest anyone has gotten that many followers—a full 32 minutes faster than Jennifer Aniston achieved the same feat back in October of 2019—and she inaugurated her account with a full reunion photo of the Friends cast.
So how did a British broadcaster who has been stoically narrating nature documentaries for the entirety of recorded history manage to beat an A-list celebrity at what he calls “this new way of communication?” The answer is surprisingly simple: 1) By being David Attenborough and 2) By having something important to say.
The first part is just that everyone who knows who David Attenborough is loves David Attenborough. He may not be nearly as famous or recognizable as Jennifer Aniston, and he doesn’t make headlines every time he comes within 10 miles of Brad Pitt, but there may not be another living figure who inspires as much warm devotion as David Attenborough—don’t be surprised if he laps Bella Thorne’s OnlyFans record next.
In the UK he is widely considered a national treasure—and with good reason. the rich tones of his soothing baritone have become synonymous with the natural world for millions who have watched the canonical versions of BBC’s Life (Oprah who?) and Planet Earth (Sigourney what?) among countless other classic documentaries.
He has been working in broadcasting for more than 60 years—traveling the world to document its natural splendor. But as interesting as that work is, if you wouldn’t gladly listen to him reading oatmeal recipes for at least that long, you need to have your ears checked.
His voice, along with his regal bearing when he appears on screen—bobbing majestically along with his words—lend him a tremendous talent for making information about the natural world both engaging and digestible. While his older brother, Richard Attenborough, won two Academy awards for his 1982 film Ghandi, in terms of legacy even that achievement can’t compete with the refined power of David Attenborough’s voice.
But—as Spider-Man’s uncle famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and David Attenborough is doing his best to put his talents to good use with the time he has left. He joined Instagram not to invite his devoted fans to flock to him but to raise alarms about the state of our world.
Because with all his travels—to all seven continents on this little blue marble—he has witnessed the devastation that’s already taking place: a devastation which will only accelerate unless we act quickly and painfully to stop it. Rather than continuing to deny that our gangrenous limb is killing us, it’s past time to cut it off and begin the healing process.
If we don’t take that kind of drastic measure to counter the political power of industry to continue destroying our planet, what we face is a world of rapidly worsening wildfires (yes, even worse than this year), droughts, hurricanes, crop failures, species extinctions, migrant crises, infectious disease events (again, even worse than this year), and resource wars.
While it’s unlikely that Attenborough will live to see the worst of what’s coming, he recognizes the existential threat that man-made climate change represents to the natural world, our civilization, and even our species, and he doesn’t want to let any opportunity to address that problem go to waste.
That’s why he got on Instagram in the days before the premiere of his new documentary, A Life on Our Planet. He has an important message to share. It’s a message he recently delivered to Prince William, and it turns out it’s a message that millions of others want to hear—as dark as it is.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet | Official Trailer | Netflix
David Attenborough has seen the horrifying ravages that human industry is wreaking on the natural world—the world that sustains us. He knows where our current trajectory leads—disaster—and he believes that he can see another path. In A Life on Our Planet, which will premiere on Netflix on October 4th, he lays everything out for us.
He’s offering us his “vision for the future.” All we need to do is listen and act. Sadly, if we continue voting for nationalist, pro-industry leaders like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Xi Jinping, and Jair Bolsonaro, we will never achieve the will to act on the global scale necessary to avoid a climate cataclysm that will cripple every nation on Earth.
So, after you watch Life on Our Planet—and allow Attenborough’s soothing tones to make the whole disastrous mess seem a lot more real and little less overwhelming—please don’t forget to vote.