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BBC Radio 4 - Costing the Earth

Costing the Earth

Fresh ideas from the sharpest minds working toward a cleaner, greener planet

Costing the Earth

  • Maritime Nation
    How well protected is Britain's coast and its wildlife after Brexit? Chef and fisheries campaigner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall joins Peter Gibbs to examine the health of our seas. Can our network of Marine Protected Areas be strengthened and expanded? What impact is climate change having on our waters? How can we lift the curse of plastic pollution from our beaches? Surfers, fishermen, campaigners and conservationists join Peter and Hugh to consider the issues. Producer: Jonathan Wiltshire

  • Gene Editing Nature
    The powerful gene editing technique CRISPR that allows us to rewrite DNA may soon provide a tool to help save our planet’s biodiversity. CRISPR has been described as ‘molecular scissors’ and is used to make targeted, precise changes to the DNA of plants and animals, with all the ethical questions it raises. Since it was developed by scientists 9 nine years ago, research into uses of CRISPR has been increasing in medicine and agriculture, as well as entering the fields of public health and environmental conservation, where genetic engineering had previously not been a realistic possibility. With the threat of climate change and the loss of species and habitats worldwide, gene editing has the potential to be able to help revive endangered species, and help them adapt to changing temperatures. And by combining CRISPR with a ‘gene drive’ – a technique that forces genes to spread through a population, we now have the ability to bend the rules of natural selection and control populations of invasive species or a pest that carries disease. But what are the risks and potential consequences of meddling with the complex processes of the natural world? Jheni Osman talks to scientists currently researching potential uses of gene editing for environmental conservation, including combining it with a gene drive to control grey squirrel populations, using CRISPR to find the genes responsible for heat tolerance in coral, and editing genetic diversity into species on the brink of extinction. At this early stage of the development of the science, Jheni hears about the particular ethical and practical considerations of altering the genomes of wild species and releasing them into the wild. Should we use this power to edit nature, and if so, how should it be controlled? Producer: Sophie Anton

  • Killer Kitties
    Realising your pet cat has brought home a 'gift' or perhaps a snack they plan to eat in front of you is never pleasant. Many owners will scramble to intercept and release the poor prey but that may be too little, too late. Cats have been blamed for an estimated 100million wildlife kills in the UK each Spring and Summer but it's hard to know what really goes on when they're out on the prowl at night. Birds, mammals, insects, amphibians...and sometimes the odd snake in some cases...but others don't seem fussed at all. Scientists have been monitoring and logging cat kills to build a clearer picture of their behaviour and take this beyond what they choose to bring home. Miranda Krestovnikoff explores the factors that may influence a cat's desire to kill and speaks to Hannah Lockwood from the University of Derby whose 'What the Cat Dragged In' project charting hundreds of cats and even using cameras to reveal the hidden truth about their nocturnal behaviour. She hears about more drastic measures and proposals outside the UK which put more responsibility on cat owners for what they hunt and gets practical advice about how cat owners might deter their pretty kitties from being savage predators, while still keeping it happy. Presented by Miranda Krestovnikoff and produced by Anne-Marie Bullock for BBC Audio Bristol.

  • The New Environmental Sheriff in Town
    Dame Glenys Stacey is charged with the job of keeping the government on track toward a greener future. She talks to Tom Heap in her first interview as the head of the new Office for Environmental Protection. If public bodies in England such as the Environment Agency, Natural England and local authorities fail to keep rivers clean and city air breathable then it will be Glenys Stacey who will try to make them to do better She was a well respected regulator of examinations at Ofqual and has plenty of experience of holding authorities to account, but does she have the powers and budget to keep the government green? Producer: Alasdair Cross

  • The Lorax
    Dr Seuss' fable of needless consumerism and environmental ruin, The Lorax, is half a century old this year. The 'shortish, brownish, oldish and mossy' character who 'speaks for the trees' increasingly features on placards at demos. Michael Rosen looks at the book's influence on the modern environmental movement and charts its journey from ignored to censored, embraced by the mainstream and inevitably turned into a Hollywood movie and used to sell SUVs. With Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell, Writer George Monbiot, Economist Kate Raworth, Playwright David Greig, Advertising 'guru' Rory Sutherland, Ben Stewart from Greenpeace, Steve Brezzo, Josh Golin, Terri Birkett and more. Producer: Ellie Richold