FUTURE ARRANGEMENTS AND FUTURE CERTAINTY
Arranging to meet
A = Miss Appleby`s secretary
B = Businessman
B Hello. Could I speak to Miss Appleby, please? This is John Blofeld.
A One moment, please. I`m afraid she`s out at the moment. She`s visiting a factory.
B I see. Will she be back in her office at 10.30?
A Let me see. Mmm. Well, she might be late because of the traffic.
B All right. She`s a difficult person to get hold of, isn`t she? What about lunch time? Is she free then?
A Yes, I`m awfully sorry. Just one moment, I`ll check. No, she`s having lunch with a designer.
B Oh dear. What time will she be back?
A Erm … At two o`clock. She`s seeing a customer here in her office.
B Ah. So what time can I phone back?
A Any time after 2.30.
B Are you sure?
A Definitely. She will be in her office for the rest of the afternoon.
B OK. I`ll phone back then. Thank you.
A That`s all right. Goodbye.
An interview with David Attenborough
�Groundwell� Broadcast 13.4.84, Radio 4
�Released by Arrangement with BBC Enterprises Limited�
I = Interviewer
A = David Attenborough
I David Attenborough is very gloomy about much of what he`s seen. What`s depressed him most has been the huge speed and scale of change that human beings are inflicting on the world. A powerful symbol of that change is the simple act of felling trees.
A In the Himalayas, for example, people cut down forests simply because there are an awful lot of people who need firewood to keep warm. And so they cut down huge hillsides, in a few years … are stripped of their forests.
I This leaves fertile Himalayan hills naked, unprotected from the heavy rains. The trees were umbrellas, but now the rain washes out the good soil, which ends up as mud a thousand miles away in the channels of the river Ganges.
A When the next rains come, instead of the forests on the hillside holding the rains and letting it out a bit at a time as though it were a sponge, the forest isn`t there, so the rain water runs straight off and when it goes down in a huge flood; and it gets into the channels which are clogged with mud, so it then floods, so then the whole area is under water, people lose their farm land and people drown.
I So cutting down trees in Nepal drowns people in Bangladesh. In Africa the gathering of wood is making the desert grow.
A In parts of the Sudan, the desert in just 15 years has advanced sixty miles. And it`s a … it`s a … devastating statistic and … what`s more, it`s a heart-breaking one, because how can you go to these people and say, `You mustn`t cut down that tree in order to cook your food?`
I But is it universally so bad? Or are some environmentalists just getting into a flap about isolated, extreme examples? David Attenborough used to wonder that, too.
A I remember very well flying over the Aniazonian jungle for hour after hour after hour and not a sign of the hand of man beneath me, just this green carpet of trees. And I said to myself, `It can`t be true, it can`t be true that this will disappear by the end of the century`. And so I looked into the question as to how people made these estimates. I mean, I thought, was it one of these things where you suddenly multiplied one statistic by 500,000 and you get an extraordinary answer? The fact of the matter is that those statistics are based on surveys by satellites with infra-red cameras which actually measure the change of a patch of green leaves into a patch of bare ground. And even on that level the rate at which the jungle is being … er destroyed amounts to about 29,000 square miles in a year.
I That`s an area the size of the whole of Scotland disappearing every year. Trees are a vital part of the water cycle, and of course they give us the oxygen that we breathe. And cutting down the rain forests kills the plants beneath the trees as well, plants which help us fight disease.
A Forty per cent of our drugs, our medicines, are derived from plants and most of those come from the tropical rain forests, and most of those come from the Amazon.
I Those plants also help fight the diseases that threaten our food. The funguses and moulds that attack wheat, for example, are continually growing stronger. But they only evolve to match specific varieties of wheat. So plant breeders beat the funguses by changing the varieties.
A What does a plant breeder need to change a variety? Answer new genes. Where do they come from? Answer � wild plants. That happens with all our food plants. With rice, with potatoes, with wheat, with barley, all that applies. And if we lose those wild strains, we could well be … devast … I mean the field could be devastated and mankind would starve.
I David Attenborough insists that none of what he`s said is exaggeration. It`s not just a distant problem somewhere on the other side of the world.
A What we`re talking about is the survival of human beings, of men, women and children. It is happening now. The floods that we hear of in India and Pakistan, the starvation that we hear of in parts of Africa, these aren`t accidents. These are direct consequences of what we are talking about. And the tragedy is that the people who suffer first are the deprived people, the people who are living on the edge of prosperity. And, but if we think that we are insulated from that, that it`s always going to be them, we are wrong. They are the start. As sure as fate, they are coming our way.
I David Attenborough`s thoughts after seven years of travelling around the world.