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Alastair Fothergill: If I Ruled the World

Alastair Fothergill: If I Ruled the World

Alastair Fothergill is the award-winning producer and director of numerous nature documentaries, including the recent BBC series The Hunt, Frozen Planet, Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. But what would happen if he ruled the world?

I’d stop global warming

This is the biggest threat to humanity, and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

I’ve seen the effects with my own eyes, most vividly at the Poles where it’s happening very fast. Yet the solutions are all within the capability of mankind. We must drastically cut our use of fossil fuel.

No one needs a petroleum car these days—we can generate all the power we need with nuclear energy. We should change our diet so there are fewer cows and sheep producing methane gas. All of this is possible; it’s the politics that are difficult.


Every country would set aside at least ten per cent of their land surface for national parks 

That’s a conservative figure, but it would give much-needed protection to our planet.

Where national parks are in place I’d insist that the profits benefit the community, rather than tour companies or governments that pocket the profits for their own use. Eco tourism can only work if the local people can see the economic advantages of conservation.

I’d also make sure that every country with a coastline has marine sanctuaries—a preserved area where no destructive activity is allowed. 


I’d abolish food waste 

We throw away 50 per cent of our food in the Western world, and that’s an utter crime.

I’d put more schemes in place to make use of unwanted food and tax the supermarkets heavily on anything they throw away. We also need to change people’s mindset; we’ve got used to overly packaged food and have lost touch with the joys of eating seasonal local produce.

I used to love the excitement of the first strawberries in summer and how good they tasted. 


We’d take five weeks holiday a year

In America, I work with executives who never take any. Yet when you look at the happiest countries, they are the ones where people take the most paid holiday.

For me, it’s about spending time away from the constant white noise of communication. I’d like to say I turn my screens off when I go away, but it’s not always easy.


I’d insist every child spends quality time in the countryside as part of their education

Children must be given the chance to understand the different values between the town and the country. You can’t expect people to care about country issues if they have no experience of life there.


I wouldn’t allow the swallow or barn owl to become extinct

The swallow is a harbinger of summer, and with it comes at least the hope of some beautiful months ahead; my favourite day of the year is in April, when the first ones appear back in the UK. I
still find it a miracle that a bird, with a brain smaller than my little finger, can fly from South Africa across the Sahara and return to within one yard of where it was hatched.

The barn owls aren’t doing so well as their habitats, old barns and rough grassland, are being destroyed. It was the barn owl that brought my wife and me together when I filmed them in Somerset. I’d persuade her to sit with me in the little hut where we’d look at the footage. It wasn’t until recently that she confessed she’d never actually seen the real owls as she’s very short-sighted—she’d just pretended to make me happy.


I’d remind people to count their blessings

I’m very fortunate to work with people in proximity to nature. I believe we’re nicer for it and I have great faith in humanity.

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