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Getting to know the Green Originals

A new radio series – co-produced by The Open University and the BBC – recognises the pioneers of the environmental movement who championed “green” causes and changed thinking.

The Rainforest loggers in Brazil, land rights in Australia, the hole in the ozone layer and paying attention to climate change – all of these and more come into focus in this fascinating daily show, aptly entitled Green Originals.

Looking back at the pioneers

The short episodes are each presented by people who have an interest in the issues and topics, keen to look back at their predecessors, those who’ve swum against the tide to influence our opinion and behaviour.

The series assesses the work and impact of 15 pioneering scientists, campaigners and communicators of the last 60 years.

Presenters include nature writer Conor Jameson, meteorologist Peter Gibbs, Caroline Lucas, naturalist and TV presenter Gillian Burke and writer, broadcaster, academic Corin Throsby.

One of the first in the spotlight is Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring is regarded as probably the most important environmental book of the 20th century.

Carson’s book connected the effect of pesticides on the countryside

It outlined the effect that pesticides were having on the countryside and the wildlife within it. Attacked initially by chemicals companies, the knowledge and foresight of this “humble marine biologist turned conservationist” eventually forced policy change.

The OU’s Prof David Gowing is one of three academic consultants to the programme. Professor of Botany, he is both a botanist and plant ecologist interested in how species coexist. His particular focus is species-rich grasslands from around the world.

Talking about the series, Prof Gowing said:

โ€œCoverage of climate change and of biodiversity loss is all over the media these days and, as we head into 2020, people from all walks of life now seem to be engaging with the broader issue of environmental change. 

Because it all feels so current, it is easy to forget that many of the key ideas were first raised more than 50 years ago by individuals with real foresight.  Many were pilloried for their views at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, we now regret not paying them more attention.  

Green Originals documents the contributions of these far-sighted individuals and reminds us that progress is being made; the first Original presented was Rachel Carson.  Her warnings led to the use of the insecticide DDT being banned, which has earned her the gratitude of all subsequent generations. ”

Spotting the hole in the ozone layer

Prof Gowing adds: “The second  programme covers Joe Farman who spotted the hole in the ozone layer. Like Rachel’s, his warnings were eventually heeded and the hole is now repairing itself. 

“The series is inspiring in that it shows the benefits of putting your head above the parapet.  So much environmental coverage can be doom-laden, so it is  good to be reminded of some successes.โ€

Green Originals is broadcast daily on BBC Radio 4 from Monday January 6th at 1.45pm with a 15 minute episode running until January 24th.

Find out more about the programme and about the research work of Prof Gowing and fellow academic consultants Dr Carl Boardman, lecturer in energy and environmental studies and Dr George Revill, senior lecturer in Geography.

About Author

Christine is a manager in the Media Relations team within the Marcomms Unit at the OU. She is an experienced BBC journalist, sub-editor and news editor and has a background in regional newspapers. After moving to PR she worked as a press officer for the Zoological Society of London. She has a BSc in Social Sciences with Politics from The Open University; she focuses on STEM stories and widening access in HE. Chris swims regularly and has a pet Tortoise called Lightning.

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