28/09/19 - RADIO: The Inquiry (23 mins) In the afternoon of August 20th this year, the sky over Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo turned dark. The cause of this premature night was the smoke from fires burning thousands of kilometres away in the Amazon rainforest. The scale of the fires caught the attention of the world, but the Amazon is one story among many. The global community has long worried about deforestation, five years ago nations agreed to work to halve global tree loss by 2020 and end it by 2030. This month, those targets were acknowledged to be missed. This week we investigate what tactics are being used to preserve forests around the world, and ask if any of them are effective.
10/12/18 - RADIO: Start the Week: Trees: a wood wide web Trees may have vibrant inner lives and certainly appear to have individual personalities, claims the forester-cum-writer Peter Wollheben. In his bestselling book, The Hidden Life of Trees, he uncovers an underground social network of communication between trees. In the late 1990s the journalist Ruth Pavey purchased four acres of scrub woodland in Somerset, and set about transforming this derelict land into a sanctuary for woodland plants, creatures and her own thoughts. The natural world comes alive in the poetry of Kathleen Jamie. Although her landscape is often her Scottish homeland, politics, history and human folly are never far away, as she asks how we can live more equably with nature. And breathing clean air is the goal of Gary Fuller’s book, The Invisible Killer. He studies the rising threat of air pollution from London’s congested streets to wood-burning damage in New Zealand.
19/10/18 - The Guardian view on vanishing insects: a silent threat The astonishing global collapse in their numbers is a danger to almost every other species. The causes of this global decline seem to vary with latitude. But they are all, in one way or another, the product of human activity. In the temperate regions insect populations are more adaptable to fluctuations in temperature, but insects must contend with the mass use of pesticides across the bleak monocultures of industrial agriculture, as well as the generalised pollution of the air and water. In the rainforest, where the pattern of losses across species and over time shows that there must be some single vast factor acting on the whole ecosystem, it appears that the main driver is simply the climate catastrophe. The consequences of this collapse lend still more urgency to political efforts to slow and eventually halt climate change; but even as individuals we can follow Candide’s advice and cultivate our gardens so insects can thrive there.
20/10/17 - VIDEO: Sky News Documentary: A Plastic Whale (46 mins) A dead whale was found with its stomach full of plastic packaging, we ask whether this sad case can help in finding a solution. Our household rubbish is polluting every single part of our oceans, at every possible depth. And it is killing our marine life. The Cuvier's beaked whale feeds far out to sea at depths of a mile or more - and yet one died with dozens of plastic bags in its stomach. The animal, which stranded near Bergen, Norway, had mistaken so many bags for food that its stomach was stuffed with plastic. This is not the first animal to die because of widespread plastic pollution - and it won't be the last. Sky Ocean Rescue is doing something about it and we need to act. To get involved, visit the campaign website.
20/10/17 - Shock decline in flying insects Since 1989, numbers of flying insects have dropped by more than 75% in parts of Germany, with serious implications for the rest of Europe. Since the territories sampled were all nature reserves in some way protected from pesticides and other disturbance, the implications are alarming: winged insects may be flying to oblivion across much of Europe.
20/09/17 - Mathematics predicts a sixth mass extinction by 2100 In the past 540 million years, the Earth has endured five mass extinction events, each involving processes that upended the normal cycling of carbon through the atmosphere and oceans. These globally fatal perturbations in carbon each unfolded over thousands to millions of years, and are coincident with the widespread extermination of marine species around the world. The question for many scientists is whether the carbon cycle is now experiencing a significant jolt that could tip the planet toward a sixth mass extinction.
10/04/17 - There's A Lot Of Trash In The Ocean. Here's How To Help Let’s start this article with a really depressing fact (just what you wanted to hear): The ocean is full of garbage. Most people have some sense of this. After all, for the last 30 years, we’ve been told that we need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. But new studies are revealing just how much garbage is in the ocean. And it’s somewhat alarming. The recent search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 has shown that there are massive patches of garbage floating in the ocean. These patches aren’t small either. We’re not talking a few pieces of debris. These are enormous, island-like patches, containing hundreds of thousands of pieces of garbage.
28/02/17 - RADIO: The Whale Menopause (28 mins) Killer whales and humans are almost unique in the animal kingdom. The females of both species go through the menopause in their 40s or 50s, and then live for decades without producing any more offspring themselves. It's an extremely rare phenomenon. No other mammal does this, including other apes, monkeys and elephants, with the exception of another species of toothed whale. There are good grounds for thinking the menopause evolved for a reason, but why? A female killer whale's offspring of both sexes stay with her for her lifetimes. If a matriarch dies, her fully grown sons are eight times more likely to die in the following year. Her adult daughters are also at risk. Further study of the Center's data suggests that the whale matriarchs possess decades of knowledge and wisdom about their world on which her offspring and grand-offspring depend. This may well go part of the way in explaining why old females have evolved to stop reproducing themselves and focus on promoting their genetic legacy through her children's and grandchildren's success. One of the potential evolutionary explanations for the menopause in our own species is the 'Grandmother hypothesis'. In the killer whales, you might say it's a combination of the Grandmother and Italian Mother hypothesis. But according to Croft and Franks, even that doesn't completely solve the mystery of the menopause. So what might?
13/11/16 - Warming wreaks havoc with ecosystems As climate change negotiations continue in Marrakech, scientists warn that global warming is affecting four-fifths of ecological processes vital to ecosystems.
12/11/16 - What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife Get ready for more drilling, mining, and logging on public lands and an agenda that values preserving wildlife—for hunters.
04/10/16 - RADIO: The Life Scientific: Frans de Waal (28 mins) Charles Darwin first alerted us to our ape ancestry. Genome analysis tells us we share 99% of our DNA with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, the chimpanzee and the bonobo. And yet we seem surprised to learn that apes are kind and clever, traits we tend to like to think of as being uniquely human. Behavioural biologist and best-selling author, Frans de Waal has spent many years in offices overlooking chimp colonies, observing their behaviour on a daily basis. He pioneered studies of kindness and peace-making in primates, when other scientists were focussing on violence, greed and aggression. Empathy, he argues, has a long evolutionary history; and he is determined to undermine our arrogant assumptions of human superiority. Frans talks to Jim Al-Khalili about growing up on the Dutch polders, chimpanzee politics, and the extraordinary sex lives of the bonobos.
14/09/16 - RADIO: The Waterside Ape (42 mins x 2) Sir David Attenborough considers whether new evidence will help a once widely ridiculed theory of human origins move towards to mainstream acceptance. In 1960, the eminent Oxford marine biologist Sir Alister Hardy proposed a revolutionary idea - our human ancestors had started their existence not on the wide savannahs of Africa, but had become accustomed to living alongside water, swimming and diving in the shallows, collecting the abundant food and learning to use language and fashion tools. Hardy asserted that this adaptation to living at the waterside would also account for a whole range of peculiarities about the human form, including the layers of fat beneath the skin, the relative lack of body-hair, the development of language and speech, and what has been called our 'runaway brains'.
20/06/16 - How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply New studies show that alarming numbers of tiny fibers from synthetic fabrics are making their way from your washing machine into aquatic animals.
14/05/16 - Bleached Coral Stops Fish From Smelling Predators More than 90 percent of the 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef is suffering from coral bleaching due to climate change, as oceans warm, reefs slough off algae that protect corals. While corals only cover about 1 percent of the ocean’s floor, they serve as critically important habitat for about a quarter of the world’s marine species. Now scientists are starting to discover how coral bleaching is affecting creatures that depend on reefs for their survival. Researchers at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, have been studying how fish react to large coral bleaching events, finding that the smell left by dead coral hampers the ability of fish to detect predators.
12/02/16 - The North Atlantic doubles carbon intake It is gulping down twice as much human-caused carbon and becoming increasingly acidic, intensifying alarm for marine creatures. The North Atlantic Ocean is responding rapidly to climate change: it has absorbed 50% more carbon from human activities in the last 10 years, than in the previous decade, a new study shows. In effect, it has become both a sink for the byproduct of the fossil fuel combustion that is driving global warming, and at the same time an index of the impact humans are now having on the ocean and atmosphere.
09/02/16 - RADIO: Editing Life (30 mins) In the last couple of years, a new genetic technology has taken the world of medical and biological research by storm. It is known as CRISPR and it allows scientists to change the DNA code of any organism precisely, quickly and cheaply. The applications and concerns about CRISPR's potential uses extend way beyond the human germline into the natural world. For the first time, the gene editing technology makes practical a genetic mechanism called gene drive. Organism engineered with gene drives could be used to spread lethal genes through wild populations of pest animals and plants - such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes, invasive cane toads in Australia or weeds. But many question whether this is a use of CRISPR we could control once it had been released into the environment.
10/07/15 - RADIO: CSI Whale (28 mins) Six hundred cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are stranded on British coasts every year. The UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme team works out of a laboratory and office at London Zoo and attend as many strandings as they can in order to try to find out why the animals have died. Whales are so big and such creatures of another realm that getting close to them has long spurred the human imagination to ambitious reflection. Among the fruits of this are the Bible story of Jonah, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and George Orwell's essay Inside the Whale. Why have we been so fascinated - so bewitched and terrified at once - by these animals?
14/05/15 - RADIO: Crossing Continents: Peru's wildlife for sale (28 mins) The global trade in wildlife is worth an estimated US$20 billion a year. Peru is one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet. But its government estimates 400 species of fauna and flora are in danger of extinction - illicit trafficking is one of the biggest threats. The illegal wildlife trade supplies live birds and animals - macaws, parrots, monkeys, turtles - for both the local market (including tourists), and overseas collectors. It also commercialises body parts - the rare Andean bear, and the feathers of condors. So how is Peru attempting to protect its precious resources? For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly goes on operations with the wildlife police.
01/12/14 - RADIO: Start the Week: Evolution and Extinction (43 mins) Tom Sutcliffe discusses evolution and extinction with Jules Pretty, who's been travelling to meet "enduring people in vanishing lands" and is concerned about their future; with Andreas Wagner on solving what he calls evolution's greatest puzzle - how can random mutations over a mere 3.8 billion years solely be responsible for eyeballs; poet Ruth Padel on what we can learn from animals and Chris Stringer who's been looking at ancient human occupation of Britain and how homo sapiens may have driven other humans to extinction.
08/11/14 - Watch 1,000 Polar Bears Waiting to Migrate Across the Still Unfrozen North—Live What’s it like to see a thousand polar bears gather in a Canadian town as they wait for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can begin their annual migration in search of seals and other chow?
14/10/14 - RADIO: Shared Planet: Insects and Street Lights (28 mins) Artificial lighting is ubiquitous in the developed world - but the effects of night time illumination on wildlife are not yet fully understood. While we know that artificial light changes the behaviour of some animals we're still a long way from knowing whether those changes can damage wildlife populations.
05/10/14 - In the Age of Extinction, which species can we least afford to lose? The threatened extinction of the tiger in India, the perilous existence of the orangutan in Indonesia, the plight of the panda: these are wildlife emergencies with which we have become familiar. They are well-loved animals that no one wants to see disappear. But now scientists fear the real impact of declining wildlife could be closer to home, with the threat to creatures such as ladybirds posing the harshest danger to biodiversity.
30/09/14 - Living Planet Index The state of the world’s biodiversity appears worse than ever. Population sizes of vertebrate species measured by the LPI have halved over the last 40 years.The Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures trends in thousands of vertebrate species populations, shows a decline of 52 per cent between 1970 and 2010. In other words, the number of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish across the globe is, on average, about half the size it was 40 years ago. This is a much bigger decrease than has been reported previously, as a result of a new methodology which aims to be more representative of global biodiversity.
30/09/14 - RADIO: Shared Planet: Ocean Plastic and Seabirds (28 mins) Plastic litter has the knack of finding its way into the ocean. Unfortunately this means that seabirds that have, until relatively recently, been safe to assume that the objects floating on the surface are food are getting a stomach full of trash. Shared Planet finds out how bad the situation is for seabirds like the fulmar and the simple things we can do to reduce the problem.
23/09/14 - RADIO: Shared Planet: Are We Getting Used to Less Wildlife (28 mins) The diversity and abundance of wildlife is declining across the world. As people grow older they notice the changes but for each new generation the baseline is reset. Is each generation is getting used to living with less and less wildlife? With so many other distractions do young people today notice the wildlife around them? Monty Don explores whether shifting baselines are a problem for conservation or simply inevitable in a system already subject to natural fluctuations.
21/07/14 - RADIO: Plants: From Roots to Riches (15 mins episodes broadcast daily over 5 weeks). Our changing relationship with plants over the last 250 years - from tools to exploit, to objects of beauty, to being an essential global resource we have to conserve.
23/05/14 - Scottish residents search beaches for plastic ‘nurdles’ Accidental spills and careless handling at industrial facilities creates an easy route for these pellets to enter the marine environment, where they become embedded in estuarine and coastal habitats. Sadly, in the marine environment nurdles resemble floating fish eggs and tiny crustaceans, and are regularly mistaken for food by wildlife.
29/07/13 - Cleaning up plastic litter in remote, open ocean areas: Guidance for prospective inventors of plastic-capture systems. Ocean Trash Plaguing Our Sea Garbage patches in the ocean aren't piled-up islands of trash and debris, as is the common perception. But that doesn't mean the tiny, swirling plastic bits are nothing to worry about.
06/06/13 - RADIO: Ramblings - George Monbiot in search of the wild (26 mins) Clare Balding goes rambling, near Machynlleth, with the writer and environmentalist, George Monbiot. The theme of this series of Ramblings is 'In Search Of.' and, together, George and Clare are walking in search of wildness.
29/05/13 - Launch of George Monbiot's new book Feral Widespread rewilding of land and oceans and the mass restoration of ecosystems through trophic cascades i.e. where the species at the top of the food chain has a positive effect on species and habitats cascading all the way down through the eco-system, and a subsequent affect on climate change.
27/03/13 - TV: Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction (60 mins) Best-selling author Sir Terry Pratchett, diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007, has one last adventure he wants to go on. Eighteen years ago Terry had a life-changing experience in the jungles of Borneo, where he encountered orangutans in the wild for the first time. Now he is going back to find out what the future holds for these endangered species, and discover a new threat to their habitat that could push them to the brink of extinction. His Alzheimer's will make the trip an incredible challenge both physically and mentally, as he contemplates the role of mankind in the eradication of the planet's species, and considers his own inevitable extinction.
09/07/12 - John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis – 200 years ago 13th July is John Clare Day - this great poet showed how the era of greed began with the enclosure of the land.