From natural history to national treasure

IN an age when we seem addicted to special effects, perma-tanned airheads and mindless daytime-television wittering, isn’t it reassuring to hear the familiar tones of a well-loved figure like, say, Sir David Attenborough voicing his fears about global warming in the recent BBC Frozen Planet series.

Or even the eerie, computer-generated voice of Professor Stephen Hawking, considered one of the world’s greatest living scientists, during his recent 70th birthday celebrations.

In a recent survey to celebrate the EuroMillions Millionaires Month, more than 4,000 people were asked to vote for Britain’s greatest ‘National Living Treasure’- the person they’d like to see on a £1 million note.

Natural history broadcaster Sir David came top of the poll – beating Stephen Fry, Sir Paul McCartney and Professor Hawking.

And who would argue with that? Sir David, aged 85, has done more for the expansion of the general public’s understanding of the natural world than any single TV broadcaster, and he really is the voice of BBC natural history documentaries.

The Frozen Planet is surely the most amazing nature series to date. (Mind you, I suppose that’s due more to the cameramen than to Sir David!).

But one man’s National Treasure might be another’s offensive television bore.

Beloved by many, despised by almost as many, there must be a host of national names who’ll probably never be embraced as true treasures – if UK tabloids are to be believed.

Names like Ricky Gervais (is he the lost twin of Jeremy Clarkson, both big egos, separated at birth?), Gordon Ramsay, Piers Morgan, Naomi Campbell…

Much more interesting, though, would be the anti-National Treasure awards. Let’s kick off with the Kinnocks, the Blairs, Gordon Brown. It’s going to be a long, long list …

Now, where did we get to? Oh yes, Fred Goodwin – perfect example of Blair/Brown’s Britain. Grab as much money off the public as you can possibly get away with and then squander it as fast as possible on fanciful, useless projects made up of nothing but smoke and mirrors whilst telling the people you’re ripping off it’s all for their own good.

No, my vote goes to Sir David and his decades-long fight for the good of the natural world. A world that’ll be a poorer place when he’s gone.

Nora Johnson’s novels, Soul Stealer & The De Clerambault Code ( now available at in paperback and eBook (€0.89; Amazon UK: £0.77). Profits to Cudeca

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