Animal Planet (UK) will broadcast the first episode of a new, 'eco-reality' TV series at 8 pm on Tuesday 9 May. PLANET ACTION is a new departure for the channel (which has a global reach of 180 million viewers). If it's a hit, many more programmes will be commissioned on environmental themes. Anyone in need of reminding why such things matter need only consult the website of the IUCN... (http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/redlist2006/redlist2006.htm
I had the tremendous privilege of participating in the TV series. To find out more, click here: http://www.panda.org/news_facts/multimedia/planet_action/index.cfmIn the last few weeks I've been helping WWF to prepare their media response to the series, and have written this piece...
I am by nature a seated person. I have a talent for sitting, which is just as well as that’s what my work mostly consists of. I am, however, also a worrier. I worry for the planet especially, given that it’s a good one and good planets are hard to find. Sitting down and worrying feed on each other. The more you sit when the world needs action, the more you worry. Conversely, the more you worry without taking action, the more you feel pinned to your seat.
Reasoning thus, I’ve been trying for years to act: locally, as the saying goes, while thinking globally. I’m the press officer for a small conservation society. I volunteer to do conservation work in nature reserves. I cycle to keep my carbon emissions down. And (this is especially good as it doesn’t involve heavy lifting) I’m a member of WWF Passport.
It was through Passport that I learned about a WWF-Animal Planet series to be filmed in Central America and Southeast Asia. The producers were looking for young volunteers to meet various conservation challenges, and in a fit of absentmindedness I wrote in. The project sounded exciting – it was a chance to reach a large and mostly young audience with an important environmental message. But I didn’t expect it would be me sweating it out in the jungle.
I was asked to interview in London. I was offered a place. In a daze of excitement and apprehension I accepted – and two weeks later, perforated by the necessary jabs, I found myself on a remote stretch of beach on the Panamanian coast, crouching at the busy end of an egg-laying turtle.
So began eight weeks of intense, moving, hilarious and sometimes stressful camaraderie. Though I was the only member of the team to have applied through Passport, all of us became passionate about conservation. We were often uncomfortable, sometimes exhausted, and there were the predictable swarms of biting things. Yet the places we visited and the people we met – our local hosts as well as WWF conservationists – were inspiring. Leatherback turtles shared the Earth with dinosaurs; one acre of Malaysian jungle may contain a higher diversity of species than the whole of northern Europe; the Mekong River in Cambodia is home to a mere 100 Irrawaddy dolphins. The beauty and biological importance of the places we were privileged to work in still take my breath away.
I have seen firsthand what excellent work WWF does on the ground. They don’t believe in putting fences round places: poverty alleviation is as much a priority, as communities must develop sustainably if wildlife is to have a chance. The WWF staff we worked with combine the qualities of the adventurer and the scientist. They are humane, passionate and – in some cases – very brave individuals, and we can all help them (even the sedentary ones amongst us) by supporting the WWF, by raising awareness of the WWF’s work among family and friends… and by joining WWF Passport. Online campaigning can really make a difference. Which means that you can, too.http://passport.panda.org/yourpassport/profile.cfm