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The facts of life: PBS documentary looks at how extinction and biodiversity loss is impacting the planet

The world continues to change.

This is what interested Bill Gardner and PBS in the documentary, “Extinction: The Facts.”

Sir David Attenborough, Holly Lodge, Richmond Park, London. (Courtesy of Sam Barker)

“At a time when the planet is changing so fast, we look to science to point us to what is exactly going on,” Gardner says. “We can all see these types of things happening in our own back yard.”

As vice president, Programming & Development at PBS, Gardner says the goal is to give viewers the tools to navigate and then each person can draw their own conclusion.

“Extinction: The Facts” premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, on New Mexico PBS.

The film is an up-to-the-minute report on what extinction and biodiversity loss mean, not just for the planet, but for us as a species. It is presented by Sir David Attenborough and it reveals how this crisis has grave consequences for us all – threatening food and water security, reducing our ability to control our climate, and putting us at greater risk of deadly pandemic diseases, including COVID-19.

In 2019, the United Nations asked over 500 scientists across the globe to investigate the current state of the natural world.

They found that biodiversity is being lost at rates never seen before in human history.

James Mwenda sitting with northern white rhino, Kenya. (Courtesy of Lee Jackson)

One million plant, insect and animal species are now threatened with extinction at a rate at least 100 times faster than the natural evolutionary rate. As the program reveals through the story of the last two remaining northern white rhinos, the results can be heartbreaking.

But the crisis is about more than the loss of individual species. The evidence shows that the collapse of biodiversity now threatens our own well-being. We are losing many of the services that nature provides for us – the loss of insects puts pollination and food production at risk, the loss of biodiversity in the soil threatens plant growth. Plants themselves underpin almost everything that we need, yet one in four plants that have been assessed are currently threatened with extinction.

“Over the course of my life, I’ve encountered some of the world’s most remarkable species of animals,” says Attenborough. “Only now do I realize just how lucky I’ve been. Many of these wonders seem set to disappear from our planet forever. We are facing a crisis and one that has consequences for us all, but it’s not too late. I truly believe that together we can create a better future, if we make the right decisions at this critical moment.”

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