From nineties kids’ favourite The Really Wild Show through to the BBC’s Country File, Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes, TV presenter and nature lover Michaela Strachan has been on our screens for three decades.
We spoke to Michaela to get her views on the problems facing our planet and to hear about her ongoing work with New Zealand drinks brand, Old Mout Cider…
How would you describe the challenges facing our planet?
“The challenges are huge and there are so many. Habitat loss, climate change, consumerism, greed, plastic pollution, the list goes on.
Deforestation is a massive threat right now. If we compared the rate of loss relative to a city, the whole of London, including landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Wembley Stadium and Hyde Park, would be wiped out in just under a week (six days) and just think how many people that would make homeless. It certainly puts it into perspective.”
Do we still have time to turn things around and are there reasons to be positive?
“I think that there has recently been a real shift in consciousness in the UK.
People are certainly more aware than they were. With movements like The Extinction Rebellion, the amazing young campaigner Greta Thunberg, parliament declaring a state of climate emergency, documentaries like Our Planet, people can’t help but be aware.
As David Attenborough has said: ‘Saving our planet is within our reach. We have worked out what the problems are, we’re working on the solutions’. The human species is incredible at reacting in a crisis and coming up with amazing and innovative solutions and there is no doubt that we have reached the crisis stage.
We have to all make an enormous shift in our thinking, our habits and our way of life. We have to put the planet before profit and that’s a huge challenge. There are many countries where things are not going in the right direction and that is very alarming.
A recent study by New Zealand Cider brand (delicious by the way – ed) Old Mout showed that 80% of Brits want more ways to take action, and has revealed that it’s those aged 45-54 that want to spearhead the eco-way (65.8%), with millennials very close behind at 62%. I think people want to make a difference but feel overwhelmed most of the time.”
How does the situation make you feel?
“I tend to have huge swings in my emotions when it comes to the future of the planet and what we have done to it. When you look at the statistics and the facts, it’s hugely depressing, but then you look at what people are achieving and it lifts you back into a more positive frame of mind.
I am ashamed at the absurdity of humanity, the crazy things we do thinking we are progressing and moving forward when so often we are emotionally moving backwards. I often think of the well known saying ‘When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.’ I think everyone should know and remember that saying.
At times I think this is an exciting time for anyone into environmental issues because there is a hunger for solutions.”
How would you describe the impact of people like Sir David and Greta Thunberg?
“The impact has been huge. Both are inspirational, David in his nineties and Greta in her teens. Both of them have inspired people to make changes.”
Do you think that big brands are taking things seriously and doing enough?
“Many aren’t but it’s great to see that others are.
I’ve been working with Old Mout Cider now for three years, because they care about the environment and are using their brand to encourage change and make a difference.
For two years they put money into helping the endangered Kiwi in New Zealand and raised awareness; this year they’re partnering with the WWF to help save half a million acres of natural habitat and we’ve done a lot of campaigning to get people thinking and talking about how we can all be more environmentally aware.
It’s so important to keep people talking and inspiring people to come up with more and more ideas.It’s up to brands like Old Mout and WWF to not only build awareness but to take action and encourages others to take action.”
What are ten easy things people can change in their everyday lives to make a difference?
Part of the campaign involved coming up with ten things we can all do in our everyday life that will make a difference. Hopefully it will inspire people to do many more.
1) Keep your garden wild: plant native flowers for pollinators, keep a patch of your garden wild to help attract bees, hedgehogs, beetles and slugs, make a pond if you have the space, feed your birds. There is a lot of information online and if everyone made their garden wildlife friendly, it would make a huge difference as collectively, gardens in the UK can provide a fantastic wildlife refuge.
2) Use green search engines: some plant trees every time you surf the web! Ecosia is one such search engine. These are companies that put a lot of their profit into something good. Putting the planet before profit and these
companies should have our support.
3) Stop washing your jeans: according to fashion mogul Stella McCartney, jeans should only be washed every three months! I reckon it depends what you’re doing in those jeans! We should all try and use organic non-harmful washing powder and put a wash on a cool, short wash.”
4) Buy green: Businesses contribute hugely to climate change and biodiversity loss, so use your buying power and make sure to question where you spend. Are you using a green energy provider? Visit a comparison site to find out and for instructions on how to change if your current provider doesn’t match up. If you think a brand isn’t doing enough, make a suggestion!
5) Have an eco-friendly festival season: ditch the single-use make up wipes and make sure your glitter is biodegradable! Leave nothing behind (including your tents) and take re-usable water bottles and coffee cups. Old Mout Cider’s Kiwi Camp, which will be at Boardmasters next month, has eco-glitter stations and a spot where you can take your old favourite clothing items to be upcycled.
6) 50 wear challenge! Wear everything you own at least 50 times before buying something new, and hold clothes swap and up cycling parties/events with your friends.
7) Green gifting: make an effort to de-clutter your life and others’ lives by gifting green. Buy someone a tree through a charity, or adopt an animal. For my 50th birthday a few years ago, I got everyone to buy a tree through a charity, we then planted 50 trees in a disadvantaged school playground. My son Ollie gets a different adopted wild animal every year for Christmas, he’s had a snow leopard, a sloth, a tiger, a penguin.
8) Travel, plant, play, repeat: If you’re travelling within Europe, use trains where possible. If you’re going across seas or have to fly, offset your carbon footprint through charities such as The World Land’s Trust.
9) Practice eco-fresco dining: research the best sustainable brands and make sure all your picnics and BBQs are filled with them. Old Mout Cider is vegan friendly, uses 100% recyclable packaging and natural flavours. Eat less meat or try becoming vegetarian.
10) Knowledge is power: watch documentaries, read up on studies and advice, and talk to friends and family on what actions they take. We can all make better choices by learning.
Do you think we need to start tackling the bigger problems now – from flying to how we produce and use energy?
“Of course we do and we need governments and policy makers to force change. We need radical change. It’s also so important though for individuals to make changes. People often think that what they do won’t make any difference, but if we all do small things it collectively makes a huge difference.”
Tell us what role trees and the natural world can play?
“We should all be planting more trees. Trees are the life lungs of the planet and are vital to a healthy ecosystem. We need to be planting native trees not exotics. We desperately need to save rainforests.
We can all do simple things in our gardens. Keep them wild, plant native meadow flowers, have access to a pond, leave bits of your garden wild, embrace nettles!”
What do you think about our efforts at Plastic Free Home ?
“We have all been bombarded with depressing news about the environment and the state of the planet and we’ve needed that to become aware. Now we need to give people hope, ideas and inspiration. The media has a huge role to play so anyone, like you, who is doing their bit should be congratulated and supported. We can all do better but let’s support those who are striving to be more sustainable.”
PS – We saw you in a pantomime playing Peter Pan around twenty years ago and can still hum part of the main song…
“I’m very impressed as I’m struggling to remember it!”
You can find us on Facebook by searching for Plastic Free Home or at http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreehomeuk.