TV

Chris Packham explains why he supports Just Stop Oil as new BBC series Earth launches

In a new interview, Chris Packham says his BBC documentary 'Earth' is fuelled by the same energy as Just Stop Oil's environmental campaign

Chris Packham holding a dinosaur skull and smiling, in a promo shot for TV series Earth which he says is fuelled by the same energy as Just Stop Oil

Chris Packham holding a replica fossilised skull of Innostransevia, a lethal Permian predator. Image: BBC

Chris Packham has spoken out in support of Just Stop Oil as he reveals his new BBC2 science series Earth is fuelled by the same love and fear for the planet as motivates the environmental activist group.

“I support Just Stop Oil at the moment because they are the only people doing anything,” he told The Big Issue in a new interview.

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“I’m not saying everything they do is right but at least they’re doing something. That’s because I care very passionately, as they do. And I’m as scared as they are.

Just Stop Oil are looking to express that fear to motivate others to change. And that’s what makes me want to make my new programme, Earth. The energy is the same.”

Packham’s Earth is hugely impressive. A five-part landmark BBC2 documentary that fits somewhere between the works of David Attenborough and Professor Brian Cox.

Informed by the latest science and aided by cutting edge graphics, it tells the story of the planet’s 4.5 billion-year history via five key moments of drama, crisis and rebirth.

There are mass extinctions. Periods of devastating climate chaos. Millions of years of continuous rain and centuries of fire following devastating volcanic events.

And with Packham’s carefully chosen words to the fore, all of Earth can be viewed through the prism of the current climate crisis.

Packham’s voiceover and commentary is quite something. He talks of the “experiment we have been running for 100 years, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.” And he makes clear that human life as we know it will crumble if the temperature rises just a “few more degrees.”

However, Earth also shows that life, in some form, will go on.

Earth starts on BBC2 and iPlayer on 17 July

“If we leave it as a hellscape, even if we perish, life will bounce back…” continues Packham’s voiceover. And in a powerful challenge to viewers (and politicians) he points out the key difference between the planet’s previous extinction event and the one we could be heading towards. “The extinction event was a planetary event. This is a people event. Do we want these sort of extinctions on our conscience? I don’t think so.”

Big, expensive landmark science and nature shows have not always been so bold with their pronouncements on the climate crisis, nor have they been fronted by people who openly support groups like Just Stop Oil.

The BBC has been overly conscious, perhaps, to move alongside public opinion and not take too political a stand. But the science and the importance of the issue have reached a tipping point. The evidence is overwhelming, the urgency high. And Packham is at the forefront of getting the message out to as wide an audience as possible.

“The BBC has a long tradition of employing people who have a vocational interest in the job,” said Packham.

“We all know David Attenborough would wander around and do that stuff whether there was a camera there or not. Same with Brian Cox. And same with myself. I think it offers a real integrity and credibility to the communicator and therefore the programme. The BBC has a long tradition of that.

“It employs great cooks on its cookery programmes, great gardeners on its gardening shows and great scientists on its science output.

“And at the moment, lots of scientists have grave concerns about the future of our planet. So if they got someone to front Earth who just didn’t give a shit, it wouldn’t work. Because they wouldn’t have written the piece I wrote at the end, on my mobile phone, in a bumpy car in Mexico.

“I wrote it because I care and wanted to be able to communicate to people how much we should all care.”

And if we take heed of the message, if we follow the science, the response, says Packham, must be immediate. Though he is not optimistic that politicians are listening.

“Every day we are inactive and continue to make the same mistakes, the harder it is to go back,” he says.

“The sense of urgency is boiling, and that’s why I have grave concerns. We don’t want violence. We don’t want a bloody revolution. But we’re not succeeding through constructive dialogue, and that scares me as much as the climate breakdown, frankly.”

Read the full Letter To My Younger Self interview with Chris Packham – talking about the difficulties a lack of understanding of autism caused him, how punk rock helped him isolate from other people in his teens, and the best day of his life – in The Big Issue from Monday 17 July.

Earth starts on Monday 17 July, 9pm, BBC Two and iPlayer.

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