Prince William turns interviewer as he quizzes Sir David Attenborough

British naturalist David Attenborough speaks after receiving a Crystal Award for his environmental work

British naturalist David Attenborough speaks after receiving a Crystal Award for his environmental work. AAP

"We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all pervasive, the mechanisms we have for destruction are so wholesale and so frightening that we can exterminate whole ecosystems without even noticing it", Sir David said. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: "the Anthropocene, the age of humans". It's not just a question of beauty or interest or wonder; the essential ingredient of human life is a healthy planet. "But, in doing so, we wreck ourselves" Attenborough said.

The pair discussed the importance of protecting the environment and directly addressed the world leaders watching live in the room about the need for them to make a change for the sake of the natural world.

Agreeing with him, the prince said: "Work to save the planet is probably going to largely happen on our watch".

He added: "What we do now and in the next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years". "And if we wreck the natural world, in the end, we wreck ourselves", he said.

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And in one lighthearted moment while being shown a dramatic clip from the show, Sir David told Prince William that it was hard capturing the precise moment a glacier "calved" the piece of skyscraper-sized ice. "The plastic problems in the seas are wreaking havoc on natural life, the extent of which we do not fully know", he said. "We have to take the option of protecting the natural world".

"We have to recognise that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we take, comes from the natural world".

The Duke described it as a "personal treat" to interview Sir David about his decades of work highlighting the importance of the natural world and the urgent challenges facing the next generation of environmental leaders.

He was presented with the Crystal Award at the forum for his leadership in environmental stewardship.

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She had a day of meetings before that, including with Prince William, the Vice President of Peru Mercedes Araoz and the founder of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab, along with other country leaders. Aside from being knighted in 1985, he took part in an ITV documentary past year which looked at the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project.

"There is something very reassuring about seeing David Attenborough on BBC One doing his documentaries".

When Sir David suggested climate change might lead to "all kinds of different trees growing here in another 50 years", the Queen quipped: "It might easily be, yes".

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