February 21, 2024

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BBC Radio 4 welcomes brand new environmental series exploring the natural world

4 min read
  • The series will launch on Friday 19 January with seven weekly episodes, with more to come later in the year
  • Topics across the series include solutions for our waste problems, invasive species and the health impacts of building with wood

Launching in early 2024, Rare Earth – a new weekly hour long podcast and radio show from BBC Radio 4 – will tackle major stories about the environment and the natural world.

Taking a new approach to the big questions facing us and our planet, Rare Earth will explore the complex and storied relationship between humanity and the rest of nature, and range widely across natural history as well as diving deep into urgent environmental issues. It will draw on history and philosophy, along with the latest developments in science, in order to shed light on where we are and where we are going.

The series, which will run throughout the year, will be presented by BBC environmental journalist and Countryfile reporter Tom Heap and physicist and author Helen Czerski. Each episode will try and answer one central question, with Tom and Helen being joined by expert studio guests, along with original reporting from across the world. And while Rare Earth will never shy away from the big stuff – temperatures rising as wildlife declines – it won’t be a weekly dose of doom laden predictions. As well as shining a light on the enormous challenges to the natural world, the show will also celebrate the success stories, and the brave and clever people bringing new ideas to help the planet thrive.

In the debut episode (Friday 19 Jan), Tom and Helen will ask how we can bring nature back from the brink, and whether we should try and do so. Should we simply abandon great swathes of countryside and let nature reclaim it on its own terms or must we balance the competing demands on our land and micro-manage species and habitats for the best outcomes? Tom meets the herd of bison helping to re-wild a woodland in Kent and visits the Holkham Estate in Norfolk where the government’s Landscape Recovery pilot project is funding the transition of intensive farmland into wetlands and passageways for nature.

Within the first series, Rare Earth will also explore the huge impact that the oceans have on the planet’s temperature. Helen recently embarked on an international scientific expedition to the Labrador Sea to explore how warming waters and changing currents affect how much carbon dioxide and oxygen our oceans can take in from the air. She’ll be discussing the early results with Tom in the studio.

Tom Heap says: “We’ll explore all the fascinating stories of our relationship with the natural world: the vital challenge of our age. From the revelation of wildlife’s wonders to the hot button topics of climate and conservation while still finding time to delve in to the philosophy of the Anthropocene. I’ve been covering the environment as a journalist for over 25 years and Helen is a mine of knowledge so I’m sure our different approaches will be illuminating and even sparky.”

Helen Czerski says: “Human civilisation faces a very big question: how do we build a healthy, just human society that works with the natural world, rather than against it? We’ll explore the wide range of topics that we need to consider, all fascinating and often surprising, as well as how we got to this point, and how we think about living on Planet Earth. Tom and I come at this from different perspectives – a journalist and a research scientist – and I’m excited about the depth of exploration that will allow.”

Director of Speech Audio and Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra, Mohit Bakaya says: “Rare Earth is a landmark programme coming to BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds. It will aim to explore our relationship with the natural world, and how we might reimagine it at a crucial time for our planet. Tom, Helen and guests will bring their huge expertise to investigate the latest threats and potential solutions relating to climate change, but also explore and delight in the constant wonder of our planet. Rare Earth will be essential listening as we enter the next phase of the climate crisis.”

Rare Earth begins on Friday 19 January and will be broadcast weekly from 12 noon to 1pm on BBC Radio Four and available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.  The series is produced for BBC Radio Four by BBC Audio Wales and West in association with the Open University

Tom has been an environmental journalist for over 25 years, presenting Radio 4’s long-running Costing the Earth series and the 39 Ways to Save the Planet podcast. He also hosts Sky’s Climate Show and reports for BBC One’s Countryfile.

Helen Czerski is a physicist at University College London with a particular passion for the world’s oceans. In 2023 she published Blue Machine, a bestselling exploration of how the oceans have shaped our world. Helen has presented several TV documentary series for BBC Four and is a regular host on the Fully Charged YouTube channel and the Cosmic Shambles podcast.

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