Sir David Attenborough says politicians could learn from scientists

Politicians could learn from scientists who work together over Antarctica, says Sir David Attenborough in speech at Westminster while MPs squabble over Brexit

  • The British presenter spoke to Parliament’s Office of Science and Technology
  • He said Antarctica had been a ‘free-for-all’ but global scientists had got together
  • The 1959 Antarctic Treaty ensures the continent is used for peaceful purposes

Squabbling politicians could learn a lot from scientific collaboration and the ‘marvellous ideals’ in the Antarctic Treaty, Sir David Attenborough has said.

The British presenter spoke at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, a stone’s throw from the House of Commons where MPs were debating motions on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 

The 92-year-old broadcaster said Antarctica had been a ‘kind of free-for-all’ but said scientists had come together to ensure the continent was used for peaceful purposes. 

Sir David Attenborough (pictured) said politicians could learn from scientific collaboration, in a speech at Westminster while MPs squabbled over Brexit 

Describing how many nations were interested in Antarctica six decades ago, including Norway, France, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, he said countries had worked together with an ‘urge to take a scientific approach’.  

He said: ‘Living down there, researching down there is hard enough… let us get together and make a treaty, in which there will be a series of idealistic commands.

‘We will stop squabbling among ourselves and different nationalities, we will establish bases and will welcome anybody from any other base to our base to see what we are doing.’

Under the Antarctic Treaty, signed by 12 countries in December 1959, it was agreed that the continent should be used for peaceful purposes, military practices were prohibited and scientific collaboration was encouraged.

Sir David said the treaty had no end and would ‘go on for eternity’, adding: ‘Marvellous ideals make the pulse quicken in this day of squabbling that we have got going on in the world today.’

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He said there are no similar treaties anywhere else in the world and it is nice to think the continent is ‘leading the way’.

Speaking to reporters, Sir David said the world has to get together to bring about change in an environmental capacity and in terms of climate, reiterating how scientific collaboration across the nations offers a good model.

‘Rather a better example than many politicians,’ he said. ‘I don’t wish to paint scientists as saints – they too have their feuds and their quarrels and their arguments.

‘But what is happening in the Antarctic is a very admirable example of how intelligent people can get together and sort out problems.’

Under The Antarctic Treaty, signed by 12 countries in December 1959, it was agreed that the continent (file photo) should be used for peaceful purposes

Asked if the politicians involved in Brexit could learn anything from the animal kingdom, Sir David simply said no.

‘They don’t co-operate in that way, and they don’t have logical discussions, which is what one hopes politicians do,’ he added.

Earlier this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sir David urged business leaders and governments to come up with ‘practical solutions’ to address environmental issues.

Pressed on whether more can be done or if the damage to the planet is irreparable, he said: ‘We have to do whatever we can to rescue what we can, we aren’t going to recover, we are going to have great difficulty, and it seems very unlikely that we may even be able to maintain the status quo.

‘The temperatures are rising and we simply have to restrict it as far as we can.’

Responding to a recent tweet from US President Donald Trump stating how America could do with a little more global warming due to the cold temperatures, Sir David added that he is ‘sorry the president of the most powerful country in the world has not a greater grasp or a better perspective on the world’. 

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