An aging naturalist got to a million followers faster than America's A-list sweetheart.
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 www.youtube.com
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.
Billie Eilish, Jane Fonda, Leonardo DiCaprio, and more are all speaking out against the existential challenge of our time.
There's a lot of hypocrisy to many celebrities' purported support of climate change.
Much of their activism is just big talk, and many fail to use their wealth and power where it actually could make a difference, instead just showing their faces and airing their support for the climate movement when it's convenient, failing to spark legitimate large-scale change.
Still, one celebrity's voice can have a lot of reach—and at least these celebrities are speaking out and creating foundations in support of the climate and our shared world, which is more than most can say they're doing.
Some, of course, are doing a lot more than speaking out. This Earth Day and beyond, let's celebrate climate activists and hope that every celebrity and civilian becomes one soon, for the good of all of our livelihoods and futures.
1. Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda was arrested multiple times in 2019, including once on her 83rd birthday (it was her fifth arrest). The legendary actress has been protesting as part of Fire Drill Fridays since she moved to Washington to be "closer to the epicenter of the fight for our climate."
"I never would have expected my life to get so much fuller and, in some ways, more meaningful as I moved into my 8th decade," Fonda wrote on her blog. "But I've heeded the call of Greta Thunberg, who was just named Time's person of the year, left my comfort zone, and moved to DC to carry out weekly climate actions called Fire Drill Fridays. When I started, I didn't know if the actions and the teach-ins that precede them would gain traction. It's clear to me now that they have."
2. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most famous longtime celebrity climate activists (just take a glance at his informative, animal-studded social media accounts).
Lately, he's been involved in a project called the One Earth Climate Model, which has "the ultimate goal of finding a way to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius without resorting to geo-engineering or nuclear," said Sven Teske, the project's lead scientist. "The warnings from the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and the scientific community are clear: A world that warms beyond 1.5 Celsius is not one we want to inhabit… Staying below 1.5 Celsius is still possible, but it's going to take radical action by governments to implement the right policy frameworks and public mobilization on an unprecedented scale if we're to build the zero-carbon future that the world so desperately needs."
Leo's been at this for a while. As a 23-year-old, he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which has awarded over $80 million in grants to various environmentalists since then.
"We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this," Leo said in his Oscar speech for The Revenant.
Leonardo DiCaprio winning Best Actor www.youtube.com
3. Sir David Attenborough
"In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined," the iconic British commentator said. "It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies."
David Attenborough: 'This is the last chance' to address climate change | BBC www.youtube.com
Attenborough's new BBC documentary on climate change aims to engage and activate people. But Attenborough himself has been activated for quite a while. He's called climate change "our greatest threat in thousands of years" and explained that "While Earth has survived radical climactic changes and regenerated following mass extinctions, it's not the destruction of Earth that we are facing, it's the destruction of our familiar, natural world and our uniquely rich human culture."
In a recent interview, he was even more impassioned. "The reverberations of that simple change [of rising temperatures] are going to be enormous unless we do something about it," he said. "And this is the very last moment that we have in which we can hope to stem some of these disasters."
He praised the youth later on in the interview, and finally turned his attention to world leaders. "This is not only a long-term problem it is the biggest problem humanity has faced. Ever. Please examine it and please respond," he said, sternly and Britishly.
"We have to realise that this is not playing games," Sir Attenborough said. "This is not just having a nice little debate, arguments and then coming away with a compromise. This is an urgent problem that has to be solved and, what's more, we know how to do it - that's the paradoxical thing, that we're refusing to take steps that we know have to be taken."
4. Don Cheadle
The action hero works with the Solutions Project, an organization dedicated to female leadership and leaders of color working for clean energy and climate justice in their communities.
"I've only noticed an uptick in activity," he said of a recent spike in grassroots organizing, stemming from the efforts of young people like Greta Thunberg . "We're in this s— for the long haul. We have to be."
Cheadle, also an U. N. Environment Programme goodwill ambassador, says that he's a passionate climate activist because of our shared responsibility to "preserve the only home we all have and to protect the biodiversity that ultimately will protect us all as well."
Years of Living Dangerously Season 1: Why I Care: Don Cheadle www.youtube.com
"As challenging as it is for the U.S. to prepare for these impacts, the poorest, most vulnerable countries in the world—countries that did the least to contribute to the problem—are at much greater risk," he emphasized in a Time Magazine op-ed in 2015. "The scale of the challenge requires a global effort, but our individual actions add up, and matter. Together with government action we can address this challenge and leave a better world for our children and grandchildren."
5. Pharrell Williams
"Climate change is one of the most defining issues of our time that threatens our very existence on Earth," a very unhappy Pharrell Williams told the COP 21 conference attendees in Paris back in 2015.
Pharrell has used his art to fight climate change in some innovative ways. His 2017 single "100 Years" will be released on 2117, an optimistic sign that he believes we'll make it that far. "If we don't, as a species, if we don't do what we are supposed to do, we lose the track but we also lose the planet," he said before debuting the song. Normal lies are not normal, so don't normalize them." Ever on the cutting-edge of fashion, he's also the creative director of a clothing line that creates textiles out of recycled ocean plastics.
Pharrell Williams: climate change is defining issue of our time | Keep it in the ground www.youtube.com
"Climate change is one of the most defining issues of our time, one that threatens our very existence on Earth. And we've also got another serious problem on our hands: millions of young people who don't have jobs," he stated in 2015. "The workers, the employers, the governments, the presidents and prime ministers... you guys have the opportunity to make a difference. Make sure that green jobs are right at the top of the agenda."
Pharrell Williams Debuts Song About Climate Change www.youtube.com
6. Gisele Bündchen
Like many, Gisele Bündchen took part in the global climate strike on September 20. "I'm so inspired by all of the young people around the world who are leading this #ClimateStrike for action on the climate crisis, the biggest threat to our future," she wrote on Instagram. "This strike is an invitation to choose us. Choose our kids, choose humanity, choose our future. There is no Planet B."
Gisele Bundchen speaks at UN on climate change www.youtube.com
Her commitment to the earth extends far beyond the strike. "The environment has always been my passion," she told the UN Environment Programme, for which she is an ambassador. "Mother Earth is our fundamental life-support system and by becoming aware and responsible now, we can assist in preserving the planet. The damage we are doing to the environment affects us all. It is a global issue that needs to be met with global action."
The model created a clean water foundation Projeto Agua Limpa for her home country of Brazil in 2008, and has continued to inspire many to adopt a greener lifestyle over the years.
STARTING NOW on @NatGeoChannel → Episode 4 ft. @Schwarzenegger & @giseleofficial. WATCH & live tweet with us with… https://t.co/pZXlzKDgpv— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project) 1479351617.0
7. Mark Ruffallo
Mark Ruffallo co-founded the Solutions Project with Don Cheadle. He also is a vocal opponent of fracking, which is horrific for the environment. New York Magazine even deemed him "fracking's first famous face" after he investigated a company's attempt to frack his family's land in upstate New York.
We need to do this together. Fracking is huge threat to our climate, let’s #BanFracking https://t.co/i4GoW3SQtG— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo) 1512053864.0
8. Jaden Smith
Will Smith's son is a visionary, and climate is just one of his many projects, but along with his famous father he's been doing his part to fight for the future. He and his father launched a flavored water brand known as JUST Water, which uses recyclable bottles made from 100% plant-derived materials. He also narrated a documentary series called One Strange Rock, and he performed at the September climate strike in NYC before Greta Thunberg took the stage.
He's also spoken out extensively about his vision for a better world. "So much pollution comes from gathering energy, so I would definitely say that setting up a renewable energy grid would make a difference," he told Vice. "The amount of sunlight that hits the earth in one hour could power the world for a whole year. I feel like using what we have to help us instead of pulling things out of the ground and burning it would really help."
Al Gore and Jaden Smith on the Next Generation of Climate Activism www.youtube.com
Akon founded Lighting Africa in 2014, a venture designed to bring solar energy to Africa. "Lighting Africa is hoping to provide jobs and educate them with what we know about energy and also put them in a position that enables them to utilise those skills and in the future be able to take care of their families," he said of his work with African youth.
Watch @AKON's message from the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris #COP21 https://t.co/KXGEhnCoxX— UN Climate Change (@UN Climate Change) 1449070852.0
"This energy crisis is way beyond just… a thought. Like, this is not only our futures, but it's our kids' futures and it's the world's future, because, even when you look at the climate change and how things are drastically changing, if we don't come together now, as we're doing, because it's going to be this generation that makes the difference — clearly — it's gonna be a huge problem for us tomorrow," the musician said in an interview filmed during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in 2016.
"There is no future for the earth. Nature is not gonna wait. Nature's gonna go on with or without us. The same way dinosaurs went extinct, guess what, nature kept moving. That's just the natural course of life, so we have to want better for our environment, because our environment at the end of the day is what allows us to live free and enjoy life the way it is. So we all have to play a role, and we all have to unite. Forget whatever issues, whatever differences — at the end of the day, as humans, as the human race, we all have to live under the same globe, so we have to come together and make the right decisions."
10. Shailene Woodley
The Big Little Lies activist was arrested at Standing Rock in North Dakota in 2016. After she was released, she shared the caption, "One day, baby, we'll sing our poetry. the words dripping from our tongues wet with ripened patience. and the lyrics, the sweet fruits born from the seeds our aging hands are now sowing. #alwaysinallways #heartforward #uptous #NoDAPL #protectcleanwater #iamonyourside".
Later on, she reflected, "Simply feeding off the hype of a celebrity's arrest ain't going to save the world. But, standing together will. Please stand in solidarity with the Sioux people of Standing Rock Reservation to ensure that we still have rivers to swim in, springs to drink from and lakes to float on. Will you join us?"
She had even more to say after returning to Standing Rock in 2019. "Fossil fuels were the reason tens of thousands of people came to Standing Rock in 2016... and now, they're leading the way with sustainable and renewable energy sources. Talk about changing a narrative and switching a paradigm," she wrote.
Woodley has frequently spoken out about climate change, and for years she's focused her efforts on ocean conservation. In a Time Magazine op-ed about her work with Greenpeace and her conservation trip to the Sargasso Sea, she wrote, "If all of you who read this change your lifestyles just a tiny bit, if you put pressure on the right corporations and politicians, and if we all continue to find a little more space in our hearts for kindness, we may just be able to sway our global leaders to conserve 30% of our oceans by 2030, and in turn, continue the evolution of the human race."
11. Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish has spoken out often about climate change, and her music video for "all the good girls go to hell" was a climate allegory if we've ever seen one.
Billie Eilish - all the good girls go to hell www.youtube.com
Greta Thunberg, Billie Eilish join young protesters in DTLA to demand climate change action I ABC7 www.youtube.com
A note from Billie: “TICK TOCK! our time is running out. the climate crisis is very real. we need to speak up and d… https://t.co/3aXo9FOL1I— billie eilish (@billie eilish) 1569006490.0
Real-life angel Lizzo attended the climate strike on September 20, 2019, and she's continued to speak out about the issue.
The news rn... multiple mass shootings, climate change swallowed an island, we’re so polluted that we’re literally… https://t.co/gQf0MUCWd4— Feelin Good As Hell (@Feelin Good As Hell) 1541227799.0
Lizzo performs "A Change Is Gonna Come" | One World: Together At Home www.youtube.com