Fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working toward a cleaner, greener planet
Seeing the Wood for the Trees
There have been big promises about tree-planting numbers over the last few years - but is there much point in planting more trees, if we're not looking after the ones we've already got? The Woodland Trust estimates that only 7% of the UK's native woodlands are in good ecological condition - with pests, diseases, climate change and development all threats to tree health. Meanwhile a report from Botanic Gardens Conservation International says that a third of the world's trees are at risk of extinction.
In this programme, Peter Gibbs finds out what's ailing our trees, and asks what can be done to nurse them back to health. He talks to scientists, campaigners and the government's Chief Plant Health Officer, and finds out about a project where researchers are on the hunt for trees with natural resistance to ash dieback, which may be able to re-populate the ash woodlands of the future. He also visits a 'research forest' in the Midlands, where scientists are piping extra carbon dioxide at some of their trees, to find out what the impact of rising CO2 levels is likely to be for trees in years to come.
Produced by Emma Campbell
All Aboard the Sir David Attenborough
The public wanted to name her Boaty McBoatface, but in the end she got a slightly more stately name. The UK's newest polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has just set out on her maiden voyage to Antarctica, where she'll enable scientists to research climate change and its impacts on the polar regions.
Following a hundred years of polar exploration, this ship will write the next chapter in UK polar science.
In this episode, ocean physicist Helen Czerski gets aboard to poke around the new ship, and meets the crew members and scientists who will be taking her to the ends of the earth in search of the answers to some of the most pressing questions of our time. She finds out how the ship has been designed specially to encourage collaboration and bring together scientists from different fields. And she tries out the bunks and learns what life at sea will be like.
Find out why krill can fight climate change, how you cook at sea in a storm and what the massive hole in the middle of the ship is for!
Producer: Heather Simons
Canoeing the Cam
Britain's rivers are in crisis, with only 14% of them deemed to be in a good ecological state. Chalk streams are particularly vulnerable, as so much is taken out of them for use in our water supplies. Pollution from sewage and agricultural run-off only add to the problem. In this programme Tom Heap takes a canoe trip along a waterway he knows well, the River Cam, to see for himself what's going on. He talks to environmental groups and local people, and asks whether the rapid expansion of homes and businesses in the area can sustainably continue in such a water-stressed region. He concludes that urgent action is needed if rivers like the Cam are not to run dry.
Producer: Emma Campbell
How green is my golf course?
Golf courses do not have a good reputation when it comes to the environment. Keeping the greens and fairways looking immaculate usually means using pesticide, fungicide and fertiliser - as well as large amounts of water. Wildlife such as pecking birds and digging moles, which can damage the pristine playing surfaces, are seen as a nuisance. But attitudes are starting to change in the golfing world. In this programme, Sybil Ruscoe finds out about efforts which are being made to make golf more environmentally-friendly. She visits a golf course in Bedfordshire, where the greenkeeper puts up bird boxes and encourages areas of wildflowers. During her visit, she meets a conservation advisor from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, whose job focusses specifically on golf courses - part of a new partnership set up last year between the RSPB and the world of golf. She talks to the sport's governing body and the golf greenkeepers association, to ask whether the game is doing enough to change its ways. She also hears from a geographer who argues that the game of golf is fundamentally environmentally unacceptable in a time of climate emergency. It all leaves Sybil, a golfer herself, wondering 'how green is my golf course?'
Producer: Emma Campbell
My Toxic Cocktail
We are all surrounded by synthetic chemicals in our everyday lives - from pesticide residues in food to chemicals used in the manufacture of household products - but most of us are not aware that they also make their way into our bodies. In this programme, environmental journalist Anna Turns investigates her own 'chemical body burden' - the amount of persistent, synthetic pollutants that have accumulated inside her system. A blood test shows her that traces of pesticides which were banned before she was even born can still be detected in her body. Analysis of the contents of her vacuum cleaner reveals that chemicals used to make furniture and electrical goods more fire-resistant are there too. Anna goes around her house, room by room, identifying the key sources of chemicals, and asking how they've travelled from the carpets and cleaning products into her own body. She talks to chemists and environmental scientists and asks what the threat to human health may be, and whether it matters that we now all carry around our own toxic cocktail.
Produced by Emma Campbell
COP26: A Turning of the Tide?
World leaders have offered up a suite of promises at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow but how many of them will make a real dent in our greenhouse gas emissions? Tom Heap talks to experts in sustainable finance, methane emissions, deforestation, clean technology and energy to gauge the impact made so far. He's also joined by two veterans of many COP meetings, University of East Anglia climate scientist, Corinne Le Quéré and Bernice Lee of Chatham House. What do they make of the conference that the world is watching?
Producer: Alasdair Cross