The fastest-growing Instagram account in history belongs to a 94-year-old environmentalist

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ByTebany Yune

Sir David Attenborough, 94, has spent the past 60 years on radio and television as a broadcaster and a beloved narrator for some of the most awe-inspiring nature documentaries ever made. His vast list of awards and achievements include 20 living and extinct species named after him, earning knighthood, and being called a "national treasure" by British royalty. Now, he can add Instagram world record breaker to the list.

Last week, Sir David made his social media debut on Instagram to spread his lifelong message of conservation and raise awareness of mankind's impact on nature. He hit one million followers within 4 hours and 44 minutes, breaking the previous Guinness World Record set by Jennifer Aniston, who in 2019 gained a million followers in 5 hours and 16 minutes. His account has only continued to rapidly grow since then, reaching nearly 5 million followers within a week.

This isn't the first time he's appeared in the Guinness World Record book. He also holds records for the most in-demand documentary TV show (Planet Earth), the longest career as a TV presenter, and the longest career as a TV naturalist.

Instagram is unfamiliar territory for Sir David, but he's getting help from the filmmakers of his upcoming documentary, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.

"Saving our planet is now a communications challenge," wrote the filmmakers on Instagram. "We know what to do, we just need the will. That's why we want to share this message on Instagram. Because there is hope and together, we can inspire change."

In an interview with the BBC, Sir David expressed high hopes that the number of Instagram followers and visitors (his first post has hit over 17 million views as of writing) means the younger generation is continuing to engage with environmental issues like climate change and the Earth's dwindling biodiversity. There's a good chance that these folks aren't just fans of the familiar voice behind some of the best nature documentaries, they're also youth and adults who are feeling the urgency to stop the climate crisis.

For those who don't know where to start, or don't understand the full scale of the damage humans have done to the Earth, he wants to use his platform to highlight the planet's problems and present solutions.

"It's their world and it's their tomorrow," he said. "I won't be there, they will be." With so many followers on a platform with a younger-leaning audience, he feels "privileged that they should listen to what an old bloke like me is talking about."

Sir David's account already has videos that have hit over a million views each, including clips where his familiar and comforting voice recalls seeing the "vulnerable and isolated" Earth from space for the first time, a hilarious encounter with two fans, and educating viewers about biodiversity loss as an issue as important as climate change.

"The natural world is fading," he cautions in a clip of his upcoming documentary, "the evidence is all around, it's happened in my lifetime — I've seen it with my own eyes.

"This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future."