Your Royal Highnesses, ladies and gentleman. There can surely be no more fitting location than this for the premiere of Our Planet. Directly behind me, behind this enormous screen, is a statue of Charles Darwin whose astonishing understanding of the natural world led to what has been called, "the greatest idea in human history", the theory of evolution by natural selection.
Darwin revealed that all species have evolved over time to best exploit the conditions in which they live. He further realised that these conditions are not simply those of geography and climate, but also their relationship to other lives that live alongside. From the delicate co-dependencies of bees and orchids, to the dramatic connection between cheetah and gazelle, all life on Earth is both product and contributor to its place in space and time. This complex web of life of which we are a part has been millennia in the making.
Whilst Darwin's insights explain how this web came about, over 200 years later, we are still only beginning to understand its interconnections and which of these connections are the most vital. Yet, we do know for certain is that these connections can break from the dinosaurs to my right, to other spectacular fossils on my left. We have all tonight been within touching distance of astonishing fragments of ecosystems long gone.
As far as we know, there have been five major extinction events on our planet. Events caused by changes so severe that many species simply can't adapt and, as such, die out. Right now, we are in the midst of the Earth's sixth mass extinction. One every bit as profound and far-reaching as that which wiped out the dinosaurs. It's almost impossible to grasp as we go about our lives that the rest of life on Earth is experiencing destruction on the scale of that wrought by a colossal asteroid collision.
But, consider these facts: 96% of the mass of mammals on our planet today are us and the livestock that we've domesticated. Only 4% is everything else, from elephants to badgers, tigers to bats. 70% of all birds are now domesticated poultry, mostly chickens. Nature once determined how we survive. Now, we determine how nature survives.
One of the things Darwin's work has taught us is that we break nature's connections at our peril. Yet, break them we do at ever-greater speed. The impacts of our growing population and our consumption now directly threaten our own future. That magnificent creature up there whose skeleton hangs up there above us, the blue whale, can give inspiration.
Just 30 years ago, most whales species including the blue whale were heading towards extinction. A public outcry led to a global agreement to protect whales, and now most populations are recovering. We've subsequently learned how important whales are to the entire ocean system, including the fish that we eat. So, saving these majestic creatures actually benefits us as well. What we did to save the whales, we must now do for all nature, and that is a communications challenge as much as it is a scientific one.
The eight-part Our Planet series aims to reach a billion people around the world. It celebrates the species and habitats that still remain and reveals what must be protected to ensure both people and nature thrive.
I've always believed that few people will protect the natural world if they don't first love and understand it. Many sequences in the Our Planet series reveal nature at its most fascinating and delightful. Others prove that good things do indeed come to those who wait often for a very long time, as the many talented cameramen and women who've recorded all kinds of wonders for us know only too well. But, what really makes Our Planet stand out is the clear, driving story that runs through the entire series and the wider communications project.
The natural world is not just nice to have. It fundamentally matters to each and every one of us. This has been a true labour of love for hundreds of filmmakers, cinematographers, conservationists, editors, musicians, production teams, all of whom have brought their best work to the most important story that there is, a story that could not be more universal or more timely.
The ability to tell that story in almost every country on Earth at the same time via Netflix brings the possibility of an unprecedented global understanding of the one place that we all call home.