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Chico Mendes20200123

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Chico Mendes.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

David Mctaggart20200114

In the spring of 1972, David McTaggart responded to an advert in a Vancouver magazine for a fledgling organisation calling itself Greenpeace. It was looking for volunteers to go to Muroroa Atoll in the South Pacific to protest against the testing of French atmospheric nuclear bombs.

McTaggart spent five weeks sailing over 3000 miles to reach the exclusion zone and position himself down-wind from the blast. France had already exploded 41 nuclear bombs into the atmosphere, some 200 times the strength of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In what he thought might be a last recording to his family, he said, "I just hope you understand what I’m doing. I’m against all this stuff."

While he couldn’t claim to be the founder of Greenpeace, David McTaggart was the one who took a small embryonic organisation in the early 1970s and transformed it into a global force for change.

After the nuclear testing protests, McTaggart set up International Greenpeace organisations in Britain, France and the Netherlands. He bought a trawler, Sir William Hardy, from the British Government, and re-named it The Rainbow Warrior.

“For many years, he was the leading figure in campaigns against whaling, seal culling and offshore oil drilling,” says writer Emma Shortis. “He successfully drew attention to the issues in ways that no-one had previously considered, by putting himself directly at the heart of the action – in the line of fire of a whaler’s harpoon, or being rammed by a naval frigate.”

Producer: Emily Williams
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4 in association with The Open University

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today, David McTaggart.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

From James Lovelock To Margaret Thatcher20200117

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement.

Film-maker and campaigner Jack Harries considers the impact of James Lovelock, the creator of the influential Gaia theory which sees the earth as a self-regulating system.

Writer Emma Shortis profiles one of Greenpeace’s pioneer campaigners. Canadian David McTaggart sailed his yacht into the blast zone of French nuclear test areas, and later spear-headed the Rainbow Warrior’s activities against Norwegian seal culling and Japanese whaling.

World champion free-diver Tanya Streeter looks at the impact of French film-maker and under-water explorer Jacques Cousteau.

The man who defended Himalayan forests against the logging industry Sunderlal Bahaguna is profiled by former colleague Vandana Shiva.

Alice Bell of the climate change charity Possible makes a case for the inclusion of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the list of Green Originals.

Producers: Natalie Steed, Dan Hardoon, Emma Barnaby, Emily Williams.
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

From Ken Saro-wiwa To Severn Cullis-suzuki20200124

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

From Rachel Carson To Judith Wright20200110

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement.

Nature writer Conor Jameson considers the impact of Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring which alerted the world to the impact of pesticides like DDT on the environment.

Meteorologist Peter Gibbs looks back at his old boss, the British Antarctic Survey scientist Joe Farman, who spotted the hole in the ozone layer using an antiquated piece of kit at the Halley research station in Antarctica.

Caroline Lucas, the only British Green MP, explores the legacy of the radical German politician Petra Kelly who founded Die Grünen and inspired a generation of European Greens.

Naturalist and TV presenter Gillian Burke assesses the role of her Kenyan “auntie”, Wangara Maathai, in drawing attention to environmental causes in sub-Saharan Africa and becoming the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Writer Corin Throsby reflects on how the Australian poet Judith Wright drew attention to land rights and the broader environmental cause in her native Australia.

Producers: Natalie Steed, Dan Hardoon, Emma Barnaby, Emily Williams.
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown Production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Jacques Cousteau20200115

A pioneer of the aqua lung and nature documentaries, Jacques Cousteau’s groundbreaking series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau had an enormous impact on the 1970s, gripping an entire generation of children with its kaleidoscopic beauty. The stunning films of sea-life, coupled with Cousteau's natural history lectures in romantically accented English, are credited with spawning the environmental movement.

Cousteau spent more time filming underwater than probably anyone else and, as such, was alert to the devastating impact of over-fishing and pollution, particularly in the Mediterranean. Away from the camera, he lobbied tirelessly for tighter government regulations to protect the marine environment and biodiversity.

Champion free-diver Tanya Streeter reflects on the life and work of the explorer and film-maker turned oceanographer and considers the challenges that remain for the protection of our Oceans.

“Cousteau’s inventions opened up the underwater world to exploration,” she says. “He inspired us to see the planet in an entirely new way.”

Producer: Emily Williams
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today, Jacques Cousteau.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

James Hansen20200121

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - James Hansen.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

James Lovelock20200113

James Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, first put forward in the mid 1970s, was a ground-breaking hypothesis of how the earth works and one of the most influential ideas on 20th century environmentalism.

It proposed that the earth is one self-regulating system in which everything on the planet, living and non-living, interacts with each other to maintain the right conditions for life to exist. It’s quasi-spiritual sentiment captured the imagination of the New-Agers of the 1980s, sci-fi writers and philosophers, as well as a growing global environmental movement.

Lovelock’s idea has been a source of controversy within the scientific community. But many of his ideas about the impact of life, and humans in particular, on the environment have made their way into the scientific status quo.

Having recently celebrated his 100th birthday, the humble Lovelock continues to inspire. Environmental activist and filmmaker Jack Harries looks back on the career of this rare breed freelance scientist, and traces Gaia’s legacy across science and culture.

“As we discover more about humanities role in tipping the fragile balance of life on earth,” he says, “Lovelock’s Gaia theory becomes incredibly compelling.”

Producer: Emma Barnaby
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown Production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - James Lovelock.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

This series looks at our climate change journey over the last sixty years

Joe Farman20200107

On 16th May 1985, Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin from the British Antarctic Survey published a paper in Nature announcing their discovery of a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. Their research suggested that chlorine released from CFCs – the chemicals used in everyday products like aerosols, refrigerators and air conditioning units – was destroying the layer of ozone which shields the Earth from the sun’s UV rays.

Just two years after the paper was published, world governments took swift action by signing up to the Montreal Protocol, a UN treaty which phased out the use of CFCs. Today, the Montreal Protocol is widely considered the most successful environmental treaty ever.

The meteorologist Peter Gibbs, who spent two years in Antarctica collecting ozone measurements for the British Antarctic Survey, reflects on the life of the camera-shy scientist who made one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century.

“Farman realised the implications of his work for the whole world,” says Peter, “and despite not being a natural performer, he was prepared to put his head above the parapet.”

Producer: Dan Hardoon
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown Production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Joe Farman.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Producer: Dan Hardoon
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Joe Farman

Joni Mitchell20200122

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Joni Mitchell.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Judith Wright20200110

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Judith Wright, one of Australia’s finest poets whose poems forged a new way of looking at and valuing the Australian landscape and wildlife.

In 1962, increasingly concerned by environmental destruction, Judith founded the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland with three friends and was president of the organisation until 1975.

She was a leading force in the successful campaign to prevent oil drilling in the Great Barrier Reef and fought to create the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It was a campaign that relied not on arguments about the beauty of the Reef but carefully marshalled scientific evidence and thorough administrative and legal action.

In later years, she focused on land rights for indigenous Australians, which she saw as a part of her environmental activism.

The writer Corin Throsby reflects on the poetry and activism of Judith Wright. He says that she showed generations of Australians that our landscape may be dusty and craggy, but that it has a profound and unique beauty. After a century of thinking the bush was something to be feared and tamed, she sent a loud and defiant message - this land is worth fighting for”.

Producer: Natalie Steed
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Judith Wright.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement.

Nature writer Conor Jameson considers the impact of Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring which alerted the world to the impact of pesticides like DDT on the environment.

Meteorologist Peter Gibbs looks back at his old boss, the British Antarctic Survey scientist Joe Farman, who spotted the hole in the ozone layer using an antiquated piece of kit at the Halley research station in Antarctica.

Caroline Lucas, the only British Green MP, explores the legacy of the radical German politician Petra Kelly who founded Die Grünen and inspired a generation of European Greens.

Naturalist and TV presenter Gillian Burke assesses the role of her Kenyan “auntie”, Wangara Maathai, in drawing attention to environmental causes in sub-Saharan Africa and becoming the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Writer Corin Throsby reflects on how the Australian poet Judith Wright drew attention to land rights and the broader environmental cause in her native Australia.

Producers: Natalie Steed, Dan Hardoon, Emma Barnaby, Emily Williams.
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Ken Saro-wiwa20200120

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Margaret Thatcher20200117

Margaret Thatcher might seem to some like an unlikely pioneer of the need for climate action but, in the late 1980s, she made a series of remarkable speeches and interventions on the subject and catapulted the issue to the foreground of media and public attention.

In 1988, at a Royal Society dinner, she gave a speech warning of the dangers of what was then known as the greenhouse effect, and the need for action. Tellingly, a key paragraph setting out practical suggestions for global action was struck out by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson.

She encouraged discussion of the subject at Cabinet level, inviting leading climate scientists into Downing Street to educate her Ministers, and described the urge to protect the environment as a key plank of Tory philosophy.

In 1989, she addressed the UN General Assembly on the subject of climate change and called for immediate and urgent action to address it.

Alice Bell is co-director at climate change charity, Possible, and is writing a book about the history of climate change. She reflects on Margaret Thatcher’s brief and vigorous engagement with the question of climate change.

Contributors include Lord Deben, Sir Crispin Tickell, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins and Jonathan Porrit.

Producer: Natalie Steed
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production in association with The Open University

Reflections on modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Margaret Thatcher.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Petra Kelly20200108

Petra Kelly did more than perhaps anyone else to raise the profile of green politics. As the most prominent member of West Germany’s Green Party, Die Grünen, Kelly’s energetic campaigning played a critical role in catapulting her party to electoral success in the 1983 Bundestag elections, where they won 27 seats.

Outside Germany, Kelly was an internationally famous campaigner against nuclear weapons and nuclear power, issues which galvanised the early green movement. But in 1992, at the age of just 44, Kelly was found dead in mysterious circumstances, alongside her lover Gert Bastian.

The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas looks back on the career of a politician who inspired her and considers Petra Kelly’s relevance to the environmental movement today.

“For Petra Kelly, green politics was never confined to Parliament,” she says, “it happened out on the streets, embracing non-violent protest and direct action.”

Producer: Dan Hardoon
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Petra Kelly.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Rachel Carson20200106

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Rachel Carson.

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring was probably the most important environmental book of the 20th century. It catalogued, in grim detail, the effect that pesticides were having on the countryside and the wildlife within it. The book was fiercely attacked by the chemicals companies, whose businesses had grown rapidly in the years after the Second World War as a result of the widespread adoption of pesticides like DDT (dubbed the “insect bomb”).

After the publication of the book, there was a change in policy regulating the use of such substances in North America and in Britain too, where the effects of DDT on birds of prey numbers had long been suspected by organisations like the RSPB.

The nature writer Conor Jameson reflects on the work of this humble marine biologist turned conservationist, and analyses what challenges remain for the regulation of chemicals in wider environmental systems.

“Carson has taken on the status of a prophet,” he says, “with Silent Spring she created a new testament for our ecological times."

Producer: Emily Williams
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Severn Cullis-suzuki20200124

Reflections on modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today, Severn Cullis-Suzuki.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Sunderlal Bahuguna20200116

In the early 1970s, village women in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas resisted deforestation by literally hugging the trees that loggers came to chop down. These original tree-huggers became known as the Chipko movement, from the Hindi word meaning “to embrace”.

At the heart of the movement was the Gandhi-inspired activist Sunderlal Bahuguna, who spread Chipko’s message of forest conservation by undertaking an almost 5,000km foot march across the Himalayas. In 1981, Bahuguna successfully persuaded India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to ban the felling of all trees in the region above an altitude of 1,000 metres.

The Chipko movement inspired similar tree-hugging movements around the world, from Switzerland to the USA. In the 1990s, Bahuguna campaigned against the construction of India’s tallest dam in the state of Uttarakhand – this time without success.

The environmental activist Vandana Shiva, herself an early volunteer with the Chipko movement, assesses Bahuguna’s legacy. She considers what his campaign against Tehri Dam teaches about what happens when environmental activism fails.

“Bahuguna was a natural politician,” she says. “He pioneered the use of non-violent tactics – including marches, fasts and roadblocks – to draw attention to environmental issues.”

Producer: Dan Hardoon
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production in association with The Open University.

Reflections on modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Sunderlal Bahuguna.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.

Wangari Maathai20200109

Naturalist and TV presenter Gillian Burke assesses the role of her Kenyan ‘auntie’, Wangari Maathai, in drawing attention to environmental causes in sub-Saharan Africa and becoming the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize.

Producer: Dan Hardoon
Series Editor: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Reflections on the modern pioneers of the environmental movement. Today - Wangari Maathai.

Reflections on the pioneers of the environmental movement over the last sixty years.