Archive for the ‘Travel Tales’ Category

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough with Jonnie Hughes

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future

By David Attenborough with Jonnie Hughes. Reviewed by Ellen Sue Jacobson


I can think of no better way to honor and celebrate Earth Day today than to post a review of David Attenborough’s wonderful book on Planet Earth. If there was one key word to walk away with it would be: BIODIVERSITY. I learned about this concept from reading the book, as well as watching the documentary a few months ago.*

In the Introduction entitled “Our Greatest Mistake,” the author describes in both the book and the documentary, the abandoned city of Pripyat in the Ukraine, coming back to it at the end of the documentary to show how Mother Nature has come back with plants and animals, minus humans. Powerful!  Especially at the end of the Introduction Attenborough writes: “we are all people of Pripyat now. We live in the shadow of a disaster of our own making…. The natural world is fading….Yet there is still time to switch off the reactor. There is a good alternative.”

Part One in the book takes us through chapters that are dates, starting with 1937 and ending with 2020, each one showing World Population, Carbon in the atmosphere, and Remaining wilderness (biodiversity). I am including the first and last chapter statistics here to show you how Earth’s natural biodiversity has diminished:


        World Population         Carbon in the Atmosphere   Remaining Wilderness

1937:       2.3 billion                      280 parts per million                    66%

2020:      7.8 billion.                     415 parts per million.                   35%


These two sets of statistics alone are scary to me, since as Earth has become more populated, we are doing so at the expense of increasing our carbon footprint and losing our biodiversity in the form of wilderness.

Part One is called “My Witness Statement” and Attenborough takes us through the decades to show how this biodiversity has diminished, more and more quickly. It’s an eye opener!

Part Two is called “What Lies Ahead” and discusses The Planetary Boundaries Model (with a circular chart). He takes us through the decades from 2030 to 2100. It is a short, yet powerful section that shows what will happen if we do not change how we live on the planet. The picture is dim with the prediction of the sixth mass extinction, unstoppable if we do not make changes now!

Part Three is the most hopeful part of the book and is entitled, “A Vision for the Future: How to Rewild the World.” As the author states on the first page of this section: “We moved from being part of nature to being apart from nature.” Just adding the first letter of the alphabet to the word part makes a world of difference!

However, the blueprint for rewilding the planet is  explained clearly including his ideas (with a scientific background): Switching to Clean Energy, Rewilding the Seas, Taking Up Less Space, Rewilding the Land, Planning for Peak Human, and Achieving More Balanced Lives. In these pages are examples of what others have figured out needs to happen, such as the regenerative farming, countries already making changes, marine protected areas, and The Doughnut Model ( a planetary boundaries model described and pictured in Part Three).

Attenborough, or Sir David as he is also called, has spent his lifetime visiting and  describing natural habitats through BBC videos, and witnessing Earth’s diminishing wild life and wild places over the decades. That alone is a powerful statement. But his research and working with co-author and filmmaker, Jonnie Hughes, makes this book (and documentary) “must see” and “must read” items at the top of your To Do list.

The book draws heavily on scientific research/knowledge with 12 pages of Notes, a helpful Glossary, and many lovely line drawings of animals and places. There are also many black and white photos plus beautiful color plates of nature. (Of course, the documentary is spectacular visually!)

Finally, Attenborigh emphasizes that we are at the tipping point; that is, if we don’t act now, it may be too late to save the planet. This is a dire prediction, and after reading the book, I believe his predictions are valid.

I hope you will read the book with the seriousness in which it is written. I would put this at the top of my list of what to do after we celebrate Earth Day/Earth Week. For me, this book has heightened my commitment to celebrate Earth Day, Every Day, especially because the author recommends a plant-based diet as one way to lower our carbon footprint and reduce the high cost of animal husbandry. So my meatless recipes have taken on a new meaning for me, that is, they are not just to promote the Good Taste of Health, but also to promote practicing Earth Day every day with meatless menus as often as possible!

             * At the end of January, my friend and co-environmentalist Coll,  reviewed the documentary of this book. She lives in the woods and hangs her laundry outside on a clothesline, which I envy. Just type in Coll Hunley in the SEARCH box to go to the review. Then click on the title of the documentary. Her review spurred and inspired me to buy the book and read in depth Sir David Attenborough’s witness statement.  Thanx, Coll!



Black History Month: Herberta Smith

Monday, February 17th, 2020

As this is posting, I have the privilege and pleasure of reading, typing, and editing Herberta Smith’s memoir, SEND ME!, about her six plus years in Uganda as a medical missionary when she was in her sixties. With her permission, I am posting the Preface of her book and will let you know when the book is finished and on Amazon.

Her stories are wonderful and her enthusiasm not “to take these stories to her grave,” as she announced when I met her at a Meet & Greet the authors in October of last year, gives her the drive to write and publish in her 86th year. What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to find and feature someone I know whose stories represent a wonderful volunteer effort in Uganda to help people in need of medical care?


Herberta Smith (nickname Bert)

“Bert” is holding the notebook with her book draft with a map of Africa on the cover that I found on the Internet.


God uses ordinary people to create miracles and do extraordinary things.

The year was 1999. I was completing my final assignment, a total of six and one half years between the years 1989 and 2000. We held a clinic in the living room and veranda of a gracious family. They knew the villagers were suffering and responded with a “yes” when the village chief asked is we could use their home as a facility. After the clinic ended, I was standing on the front lawn, waiting for the call for lunch.

I looked up at the clear, blue sky and spoke to my Heavenly Father, asking why I had worked all alone these many years. Without hesitation, the Holy Spirit spoke to me:

“I want you to go home and write about your experiences, and to encourage others to come into the interior of developing countries.”

We had medical ships coming periodically to the coastal areas of some African countries, providing much-needed surgery and medical care. Unfortunately, residents in the interior cannot walk the 10 to 20 miles to reach a ship in the harbor. At times, when these villages make the difficult journey of two to three days to the ship, the overcrowding forces these villagers away, because the medical professionals are unable to see everyone needing care. One way to stop this heartbreaking experience is to develop programs with teams of doctors and nurses coming to the bush country and villages to administer to the ill.

Again, the holy spirit said to me, “Christ has commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Write and tell the world what you have seen and done. I will provide for anyone that follows you.”

I thought, we can put up military type hospitals and barracks to house the medical team. Sounds like fun! Like Martin Luthier King, I, too, have a dream that one day, every child worldwide will be able to drink clean, safe water and they and their families will have adequate health care in their communities, provided by trained expatriates, including nurses like myself.

I hope this book of true stories will inspire you, the reader, to embrace my dream and make a difference in the health of the lives of those in need, especially those who live in the interior of Africa.

by Herberta Smith