Podcast

Costing the Earth

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

Episodes

  • The Environment after Brexit

    Apr 16 2019

    Where does Brexit leave the UK countryside? Tom Heap hosts a studio debate. On the panel: Shaun Spiers from the environmental think-tank, the Green Alliance; Heather Hancock, director of rural-based consultancy 'Rural Solutions', chair of the Food Standards Agency, and former chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Patrick Holden, founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust,. Producer: Emma Campbell

  • The Wolf is Back!

    Apr 09 2019

    Wolves were hunted out of many European countries over a century ago. In recent years they've been migrating back naturally and have now reached every country in continental Europe. Not everyone is happy - while their preferred food source is said to be deer and wild boar the killing of sheep and goats has angered many farmers. Tom Heap travels to the French Alps, meeting farmers to see if its possible to rear livestock alongside a wolf population and hears about projects to help - including an ...more

  • Fast Fashion Slow Down

    Apr 03 2019

    Fast fashion is responsible for more emissions than shipping and aviation combined and by 2050 could account for a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. Consumers have been informed about the ethical alternatives but whilst sales of more sustainably sourced clothes are increasing, the biggest success of 2018 was a fast fashion brand which often sells dresses for less than the cost of their postage. After grilling the fashion industry, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has reco...more

  • Dash from Gas

    Apr 02 2019

    Around 90% of homes in Britain get their hot water and heating from gas-fired boilers. There are 23 million of them in Britain. The Chancellor has banned them from new homes after 2025 and by 2050 they'll be history. The government is committed to phasing them out to meet international climate change commitments. So what are the alternatives to the gas that's provided reliable, reasonably priced heat since it was first piped ashore from the North Sea in the late 1960s? Electric heating is a...more

  • Clean Air for Kids

    Mar 19 2019

    Clean air - the fightback: Tom Heap investigates the problems caused by air pollution, and asks how it affects children's health. He visits schools in Manchester and London and finds out about new initiatives which hope to try to reduce pollution around school sites. Produced by Emma Campbell

  • Tread Lightly

    Mar 12 2019

    Tyres have an enormous impact on the environment. What can be done to produce and dispose of them more efficiently? Tom Heap reports. Producer: Anne-Marie Bullock

  • Hit the Gas!

    Mar 05 2019

    From the cattle shed to the racetrack, ammonia is having a moment. In the wrong place it's a dangerous pollutant, in the right place it's a clean fuel for your car. Ella McSweeney and Peter Hadfield report on the two faces of the gas chemists know as NH3. The increasing global demand for milk means more big dairy herds. More cows means more dung and urine. Mixed together they produce ammonia gas which contributes to urban air pollution and destroys sensitive habitats. In Ireland scientists...more

  • The Future of Our National Parks

    Dec 05 2018

    2019 is the 70th anniversary of the legislation that created the first National Parks in the UK. At this crucial moment for the future of our countryside, Tom Heap asks how our best-loved landscapes can work better for people and wildlife. There are now 15 National Parks – all are protected areas because of their beautiful countryside, wildlife and cultural heritage. However, much has changed since the original legislation and many of these landscapes face significant challenges, including decli...more

  • Heat from the Deep

    Nov 27 2018

    The heat contained in the top 3km of the Earth’s crust could power the planet thousands of times over. Despite that, less than 1% of the world’s electricity comes from geothermal energy. That may be about to change. Near Redruth in Cornwall a 3 mile deep hole is being dug- it will be the deepest in the UK. Cold water will be pumped down to the 200 degrees hot rocks below, the hot water returning will drive turbines to provide electricity for thousands of homes. Nearby, the Eden Project and the ...more

  • Art and the Environment

    Nov 20 2018

    Climate change is hard to depict. Polar bears on melting ice caps are far away from everyday life and the data is often complex and confusing. So could art in its broadest sense help us to understand the implications of global warming and environmental degradation? Tom Heap takes a look at how the creative community is responding to what is arguably the biggest threat of our time and asks if art can succeed in eliciting a response where science has failed. Music and visual arts which make clim...more

  • March of the Wet Wipes

    Nov 13 2018

    Over the last decade, wet wipes have become ubiquitous. There's a wipe for almost everything, from faces to furniture, and it's a multi-million pound industry. But our sewerage systems are paying the price. Tom Heap goes on a call-out with the teams whose job is unblocking the drains - and finds that the culprits are usually wet wipes. It doesn't stop with the sewers: wipes can now be found in their millions on our beaches and in our rivers - where they are affecting wildlife, and in some cases ...more

  • Wetland Wonder

    Nov 06 2018

    What have wetlands ever done for us? Apart from providing fresh water, carbon storage, flood mitigation, wildlife habitat and much more....they are said to be critical to human and planetary life. But a recent report claims despite this these ecosystems are disappearing three times faster than forests. Around 35% of the worlds wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015 - but the UK lost most of its before then. So why don't we care? Are a 'bunch of bogs and ditches' less valued than a romantic for...more

  • The Real Cost of Chinese Medicine

    Oct 30 2018

    China's $900bn Belt and Road Initiative is taking Chinese money, expertise and workers all around the world. From South-East Asia all the way to South America, Chinese influence can be spotted at construction sites for roads, dams and railways. Evidence is mounting that this is bad news for rare and endangered species. Local people discover that Chinese workers have an appetite for the skin, bones and teeth of rare creatures for use in so-called Traditional Chinese Medicine. A market is establis...more

  • Plasticphobia

    Oct 23 2018

    Could the war on plastic have unintended consequences for the environment? Tom Heap reports. Producer: Sarah Swadling

  • Man vs Woman vs Planet

    Oct 16 2018

    The environment affects us all so should gender matter when we consider how best to save the planet? Lucy Siegle and Tom Heap take on the gender divide to find out how global warming has a disproportionate impact on women and how solutions which put women in charge can be highly effective in saving carbon as well as creating equality.

  • Helen Czerski's Arctic Expedition

    Oct 09 2018

    The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. That's certain to impact on the weather we experience in Britain. Physicist Helen Czerski and an icebreaker full of scientists have just spent six weeks at the North Pole conducting experiments to find out much more about the impacts of this extraordinary change to our planet. Join Helen on the Arctic ice floes for the very latest research on the rapid changes to the far north. Producer: Alasdair Cross Photo by Mario Hoppmann

  • Electric Dreams

    Oct 02 2018

    Is the time finally right to buy an electric car? Peter Gibbs has just taken the plunge. We join him on his first road trip to see if Britain really is ready to wave goodbye to diesel and petrol. He drops in on Robert Llewellyn, Kryten in Red Dwarf and the man behind the electric car Youtube channel, Fully Charged for some initial inspiration and a moan about the difficulties of charging on the road. He checks out the real environmental benefits with Nick Molden from Emissions Analytics. He as...more

  • Fertility and the Environment

    Sep 25 2018

    Sperm counts amongst men in the West have dropped by over 50% in less than 40 years. Today 1 in 6 couples has trouble conceiving but some animal species are also facing difficulty breeding. Science Journalist and IVF patient Jheni Osman asks what the latest thinking is on factors in the environment affecting our fertility. Forty years on from the birth of the first 'test-tube baby', Louise Brown, IVF has advanced further with many new tests and treatments available. But the success highlights ...more

  • Ending the Plastic Age

    Sep 19 2018

    How do we solve the plastic crisis? Tom Heap is joined by an expert panel to find fresh ways to cut down on plastic waste. It's become the environmental crisis that's caught the imagination. Since Blue Planet 2 broadcast heart-rending images of albatross and turtles tangled in plastic waste enormous pressure has been exerted on government and retailers to reduce the flow of plastic into landfill and the oceans. But what's the best way to dispose of plastic? How do we reduce our consumption of s...more

  • Verity and the Bees

    Sep 11 2018

    Verity Sharp wants to keep bees. She already grows her own organic fruit and vegetables. To pollinate her garden and provide delicious honey, bees seem like the perfect addition. And then there's the warm glow of righteousness to look forward to- bees are in trouble and she'll be doing her bit. Or will she? As Verity seeks out the best advice on beekeeping she quickly discovers moral, philosophical and environmental problems to swerve, alongside the practical issues she'd been expecting. Could ...more

  • The Future of the Countryside

    May 29 2018

    What do we want from our countryside and how much are we willing to pay for it? Tom Heap chairs a debate in response to the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan focusing on "Public Money for Public Goods " and asks what are public goods? Is food a public good? Should public money be used to support food production or conservation and the environment? How can environmental enhancement be measured? What will the landscape of the future look like? Producer: Sarah Blunt.

  • Disappearing Alps

    May 22 2018

    The permafrost is thawing, the mountains are crumbling and the glaciers retreating. What will be left of the Alps? Peter Hadfield reports from Switzerland. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Run Rabbit

    May 16 2018

    When was the last time you saw a rabbit - dead or alive? Despite its reputation, a BTO survey suggests European rabbit numbers in the UK have declined by around 60 per cent over the last 20 years. In turn, other species from birds to invertebrates are also suffering as a result. Tom Heap tracks down the story. Myxomatosis wiped out the majority of the population in the 50s and 60s and can still affect the young but now scientists are concerned about Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. Ironically this...more

  • Antarctic Assault

    May 11 2018

    The whales, penguins and other seabirds and marine mammals of the Southern Ocean depend upon a reliable supply of the tiny shrimp-like krill. New developments in fishing and freezing technology mean that we can now join in the feast, popping krill pills for their high Omega 3 content. The writer and chef, Gerard Baker has been working on fishing boats and cruise ships in the Antarctic for twenty years. He's worried that there may not be enough krill to go around, particularly in the crucial reg...more

  • Outback Outrage

    May 08 2018

    In the Australian Outback survival is tough for plants, animals and people. Food and water are always in short supply. If anyone, or anything, takes too much it can spell disaster. Peter Hadfield travels into the red heart of the continent on the trail of a surprising threat to the delicate balance- wild camels. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Demolishing Dams

    Apr 24 2018

    Large hydro-electric dams continue to be planned and built in Africa, Asia and South America. In Western Europe and the US they're tearing them down. Peter Gibbs wants to know why. These wonders of engineering are a symbol of our ability to harness nature to produce renewable energy. The trouble is that many dams radically alter the natural life of rivers and harm their ecosystems. The majority of rivers in Europe and the US have dams on them, many of which are aging and no longer serve any use...more

  • Shifting Spring

    Apr 23 2018

    We've just endured a really tough winter but records suggest that Spring is on average beginning much earlier. Lindsey Chapman investigates how shifting seasons are affecting our wildlife. Bumblebees in January, daffodils blooming early, 'thuggish-vegetation' thriving as a result of mild winters and damp summers: the seasons appear to be blurring and wildlife is becoming confused. The overall impact is 'quite staggering' according to Matthew Oates, butterfly expert from the National Trust. In ...more

  • Undiscovered Colombia

    Apr 17 2018

    Colombia is second only to Brazil in the extent of its rich biodiversity but armed conflict over a half century has limited exploration and charting of much of its land. Those researchers who braved it risked kidnap, injury or death. But in 2016 President Santos signed a peace treaty with the FARC guerrilla fighters which has opened the door for collaborations and exploration of previously occupied areas home to potentially thousands of new species of flora and fauna. Costing the Earth follows...more

  • Dunes into Bunkers

    Apr 03 2018

    It's a decade since Donald Trump began building his golf resort on the enormous mobile sand dunes of Balmedie in Aberdeenshire. Conservation organisations bitterly protested and the idea of building golf courses on sensitive dune habitats seemed tainted. Today, however, a new course is being proposed for Coul Links on the stunning coastline to the north of Inverness. Peter Gibbs investigates the impact of Trump's development and the increasingly bitter controversy over the new course. Producer:...more

  • Superwood

    Mar 28 2018

    Anything made from oil can now be made from trees, so is a new age of wood about to dawn? Tom Heap visits Finland which is pushing for a new industrial revolution based on trees and plants rather than oil and coal. He takes a glimpse into a future where cars, clothes, computers screens, and everything else we buy could begin its life in the forest. And he finds out how the UK is leading the way towards wooden skyscrapers. Producer Sarah Swadling.

  • Microfibre Detectives

    Mar 27 2018

    Around two thirds of fibres produced globally are synthetic material - many used in our clothing. It's emerged that plastic microfibres are being shed when we wear and wash these items - which ironically include fleeces and kit worn by 'outdoorsy types' like Tom Heap. With microplastics in the marine environment now high on the agenda, Tom hears how these tiny invisible strands can be a major contributor to the scale of plastics in the oceans. They also pollute land and freshwater and are being ...more

  • A Greener Home For All

    Mar 13 2018

    Our homes and their construction have a huge impact on the environment. The construction industry is estimated to contribute to 40% of worldwide energy use and in the UK alone the building sector uses more than 400 million tons of material a year, many of which have an adverse impact on the environment. Added to this is the impact on local air quality and green spaces and the energy used in heating, lighting and even furnishing new homes. The government has set a target of 300,000 new homes a ...more

  • Coral versus Coal

    Mar 07 2018

    The rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef is one of the environmental crises of the decade. But who is to blame? Environmental activists have accused successive Australian governments of underestimating the threats to the reef from agriculture and the shipping industry but their focus is now on a coal mine. India's Adani corporation has government support for the development of one of the world's largest new mines at Carmichael, inland from the Great Barrier Reef. Construction would increas...more

  • Defenders of the Reef

    Feb 27 2018

    Marine biologist and film-maker, Ellen Husain studied the Great Barrier Reef for her Masters degree thirteen years ago. Today she's back to dive with her old supervisor. The picture is grim. So much of the life she remembers has gone, wiped out by the great coral bleaching events caused by rising sea temperatures. Some who love the reef are in despair, others who once chose to ignore the signs are finally energised, determined to do what they can to slow or even reverse the decline. Ellen meet...more

  • Everything's Gone Green!

    Feb 20 2018

    In the last General Election environmental issues barely merited a mention. Nine months on and the Prime Minister is making keynote speeches on recycling and Michael Gove is issuing a flurry of policy initiatives to get the green-minded voter on-side. Tom Heap sets out to discover why this remarkable transformation has taken place. Is it the Attenborough Effect, the power of the newly-green Daily Mail or a blatant attempt to woo the youth vote? Perhaps senior politicians have actually come to ...more

  • Bonn Climate Talks: Where Next?

    Nov 14 2017

    Tom Heap is in Bonn for the United Nations annual climate change discussions. It is the first year with Donald Trump in power as president of the United States of America and Tom will be exploring what impact his climate stance will have on the conference talks and any future agreements. Tom's guests are Lou Leonard, senior vice president of climate and energy at WWF US. He leads their climate program in the US and he is in Bonn to represent the 'We Are Still In' movement, referring to Preside...more

  • America's Climate Resistance

    Nov 07 2017

    It's a year since President Trump was elected. In that time he has appointed a climate sceptic as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he has insisted that he will bring the coal industry back, and he still has not appointed a science advisor. Roger Harrabin travels to the USA to meet those spearheading the resistance to President Trump's climate policies. In California he meets Governor Jerry Brown. Jerry is determined that California pushes ahead towards a cleaner future. He visits ...more

  • Tony's Farm

    Oct 31 2017

    When Anna Jones was growing up, the air was clean and the grass was lush. She lived on a farm in Shropshire, and phrases such as 'greenhouse gas emissions' and carbon footprints were associated with towns and cities - factories, cars and aerosols. Not anymore. We now know that 10% of the UK's greenhouse emissions come from farms, and there is a concerted effort to encourage farmers to reduce their carbon footprint. But in a world where the idea of stewardship has only recently taken hold, how do...more

  • Fish Farms of the Future

    Oct 26 2017

    A new study suggests farmed fish could be key to feeding a growing global population. Fish are an efficient source of protein and already over half the fish we now eat are farmed. However, this phenomenal growth in the production of salmon and other popular seafood has had a detrimental effect on their wild cousins. Wild salmon numbers have fallen and conservationists blame the fish farms for the spread of disease, sea lice and the pollution of habitats. Most farmed fish also require a diet whic...more

  • Where Does Our Waste Go?

    Oct 17 2017

    Where do the contents of our bins end up? Tom Heap lifts the lid on the recycling industry to find out what happens to our waste beyond the kerbside collection. What does 'recycling' mean? Are bottles and tins and plastic packaging recycled when they're collected from our homes? They might well be taken to the local MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) and separated out into different waste streams, but what happens then? Embarking on a road journey along the recycling chain, Tom Heap tracks his ...more

  • The Future of Fashion

    Oct 10 2017

    It may seem odd when an industry that relies on seasonal trends and consumption talks about 'going green'. But Lucy Siegle has had a keen eye to the fashion industry and has been charting efforts to improve things. She heads to La Scala in Milan for the very first Green Carpet Fashion Awards, rubbing shoulders with Gisele, Anna Wintour and Giorgio Armani, where the big names in the industry are gathering to respond to calls for greener fashion. Is this the sign of new era starting from the top? ...more

  • Dare to Share

    Oct 03 2017

    The ability to share underused resources like holiday homes and car journeys through online sites has disrupted many sectors of the economy. Many people now travel using 'Airbnb' or 'Uber' and being able to deal directly with the owner of the property or the driver of the car has opened up additional revenue streams for some and cheaper travel options for us all. As many more industries are about to be 'disrupted' by sharing technology Tom Heap discovers how the sharing economy might also be goo...more

  • Guardians of the Environment?

    Sep 29 2017

    Tom Heap asks if the Environment Agency is fit for purpose. After seven years of deep cuts to its staffing and budgets, Tom Heap asks the EA's Chair, Emma Howard Boyd, to respond to her critics. We hear from those who are concerned that the EA is doing too little, too late when it comes to protecting the quality of our rivers and the environment, and that it can appear toothless when dealing with the rising tide of waste crime. Senior Conservative politician, John Gummer, now Lord Deben, creat...more

  • Fight the Power

    Sep 20 2017

    Meet Gina Lopez, the radical green activist who suddenly found herself appointed Environment Minister for the Philippines. Rodrigo Duterte was elected President with the promise to cut crime by killing thousands of criminals. He lived up to expectations, initiating a vicious war against suspected drug dealers, ignoring the protests of international human rights groups. But Duterte wasn't just tough on street criminals, he also planned to crack down on the environmental abuses of large corporati...more

  • Battery Powered Britain

    Sep 12 2017

    New developments in battery technology are changing the way we power Britain. More efficient, higher capacity batteries expand the range of electric vehicles and allow solar and wind power plants to provide smooth, 24 hour electricity. Tom Heap is in Cornwall where power companies and local innovators are developing a new battery-powered economic model that could be rolled out to the rest of the UK. From mining the lithium that makes the batteries to holiday parks producing clean power for th...more

  • Tourist Tide

    Sep 05 2017

    Can beautiful places welcome mass tourism without environmental destruction? Tom Heap reports. There's been a summer of discontent in some of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. In Venice and Barcelona there have been a series of protests over their inundation by visitors. In the capital of the Basque country, San Sebastian, 'tourists go home' graffiti has appeared. Dubrovnik is capping the number of visitors allowed in the old city. Even the Isle of Skye told people not to come unles...more

  • James Wong on the World's Toughest Plants

    May 30 2017

    Between 20 and 33% of the world's plant species are currently at risk of global extinction. That's the estimation of recently published studies. So how much will climate change impact on the variety, availability and price of the food on our plates? Botanist James Wong investigates the links between global warming and the rate at which crops are able to adapt and evolve to rapidly changing conditions. Speaking to farmers, plant breeders and scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and else...more

  • Future Forests

    May 24 2017

    Can Britain revive its forests and grow the wood we need for a greener economy? Tom Heap investigates as we approach the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of The Forest. Tree planting in England has hit a forty five year low which is alarming both the timber industry and environmentalists. Tom visits a new woodland in Central Scotland combining conifers with native tree species to offer wildlife habitats, flood prevention, and public access as well as timber. Foresters hope this new generati...more

  • Mekong Delta Blues

    May 16 2017

    New dams threaten life on South-East Asia's most vital river, a river that provides food and water to 70 million people. The government of Laos is determined to develop the nation by building hydroelectric dams for electricity. Many people in the downstream countries of Cambodia and Vietnam are worried that the flow of the life-giving waters of the Mekong will be much reduced and fish life devastated. Peter Hadfield reports from the banks of the Mekong. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Exploding Penguins

    May 09 2017

    The penguins of the Falkland Islands have thrived since the war of 1982, protected from human interference by Argentine landmines. Peter Gibbs finds out what happens when the mines are cleared. Producer: Matthew Teller.

  • Made to Last?

    May 02 2017

    How long do you reasonably expect your electronic gadgets and clothes to last? Has the cheapening of products meant we're too ready to let them go when they break and buy new? Jheni Osman is sick of things breaking and the energy and resources that went to making them going to waste. She meets those who are fighting back and lengthening the lifecycle of their goods. Around the country those who lack the skills or know-how to fix things are learning how in community parties and online. But some p...more

  • Insulation for the Nation

    Apr 25 2017

    Our homes are responsible for 25% of our carbon emissions in the UK. Tom Heap asks if we can retrofit our homes to fight climate change. An Englishman's home is his castle, but most homes are not well defended against cold air and high fuel bills and if we are going to hit our 2050 carbon dioxide emissions targets we need to start a retrofit revolution from our front doors. Tom visits the house of his producer, Martin, to take stock of his 'typical' Edwardian terrace. Pre-1920s housing makes ...more

  • Sinking Solomon Islands

    Apr 18 2017

    Five of the Solomon Islands have already been lost to sea level rise and many more are being rendered uninhabitable. For wildlife film-maker and marine biologist, Ellen Husain that's not just a disturbing quirk of climate change, it's a family concern. At the beginning of the 20th century her great uncle, Stanley Knibbs was the Chief Engineer and Surveyor of the Solomon Islands, drawing up some of the first maps of the region for the British Empire. He fell in love with this Pacific paradise an...more

  • Reasons to Be Cheerful?

    Apr 11 2017

    The Skoll World Forum was set up by eBay founder, Jeff Skoll to pursue his optimistic vision of a sustainable world of peace and prosperity. But can the world's most pressing problems be solved by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and innovators? This year the forum will be attended by key speakers such as Bono, Atul Gawunde, Michael Porter and Don Henley. Tom Heap will be reporting from Oxford to ask whether there are reasons for optimism in poverty, health and co...more

  • Fishing Future

    Apr 04 2017

    The British fishing industry suffered decades of sharp decline during our membership of the European Union. The European Common Fisheries Policy has long been regarded by many as a disaster, both for fishermen and for fish stocks. So will Brexit bring a bright new dawn? Will fishing boats from other nations be forced from our waters, could new 200 mile limits provide our fleet with copious fish to catch? Or will our Brexit negotiators focus on maintaining markets for big businesses like finance ...more

  • Unfrozen North

    Mar 28 2017

    What happens in the world's most northerly town when the permafrost de-frosts? Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough visits Svalbard to find out. Longyearbyen, a three hour flight north of Oslo, is a mining town of just 2000 people, but a pretty high proportion of them are research scientists. They cluster in this relatively sheltered corner of the enormous Svalbard archipelago to study the geology and wildlife. As the Arctic rapidly warms nature is changing with it and there's nowhere better to study t...more

  • Trump's Big Sell Off

    Mar 21 2017

    Tom Heap examines the future for America's Wild West- and its Mild East- under a Donald Trump administration threatening to sell off Federal land. The Bears Ears are two mountains in the south east corner of Utah that, along with the surrounding area, were designated a National Monument by President Obama at the end of 2016. In America, a national monument gives Federal Protection second only to a National Park. damaging commercial activities are largely banned. There are fears that the new Pr...more

  • Heroines of the Rainforest

    Mar 14 2017

    The Indonesian rainforest has suffered enormous damage over the last few decades. Logged for timber and cleared for palm oil production, the habitat of remarkable creatures has declined at an extraordinary rate, leaving the region's iconic Orangutan critically endangered. Peter Hadfield has travelled across Borneo to meet two remarkable women who have found a formula to reverse the decline. Dentist, Hotlin Ompusunggu and doctor, Kinari Webb set up a clinic which offered cheap healthcare to vill...more

  • Delivering Clean Air

    Mar 07 2017

    Internet shopping continues to rise worldwide. That means a lot more delivery vans on the streets of our towns and cities. Those vans and trucks, often powered by dirty diesel engines, are contributing to air pollution problems that can cause significant increases in premature death and great discomfort for people suffering from heart and lung conditions. As part of the BBC's 'So I Can Breathe' season Tom Heap sets out to find innovative solutions. Could drones or robots be the answer? Could we...more

  • Soil Saviours

    Feb 28 2017

    Can soil play a role in the fight against climate change? Our soils are the biggest store of terrestrial carbon on the planet. This crucial non-renewable natural resource is under threat, and millions of hectares of farmland are lost every year through erosion and degradation of topsoil, releasing significant quantities of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The French Government believes that soil can play a significant part in keeping the rise in global average temperatures below 2 degr...more

  • Black Gold in Paradise

    Feb 23 2017

    Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is widely recognised as the most biodiverse place on earth. Around 10% of all known life forms can be found within a few hundred acres of this part of the Amazon rainforest. Yet the forest sits on top of thousands of barrels of crude oil and the Ecuadorian government has now given the go-ahead for drilling. Tom Heap finds out what is at stake and asks why the Ecuadorian government which has one of the greenest constitutions in the world has decided to exploit the ...more

  • Rig Retirement

    Feb 14 2017

    As many of the oil and gas platforms in the North Sea come to the end of their useful life, they're due to be decommissioned - sealed off, cleaned up and taken apart. The cost of this has been estimated to around £50bn and much of this will be footed by the taxpayer due to the tax breaks offered. But are there alternative solutions which might benefit the environment more? Tom Heap has exclusive access to an onshore decommissioning facility in Norway to which an oil platform has just been tran...more

  • Fighting Fire

    Feb 07 2017

    When wildfires engulfed the Canadian city of Fort McMurray last May 90,000 people were displaced and well over £2bn of damage was caused, making it one of the costliest natural disasters of all time. That fire proved to be just the start of a summer of flames that ripped through California, Greece and France. An area the size of India now burns every year and climate change is blamed for an increase in the length of the fire season across the boreal forests of North America. Tom Heap visits F...more

  • America's Energy Independence

    Dec 01 2016

    New President elect of the USA Donald Trump is a climate change denier, and so what does his rise to power mean for the environment? Among his early pledges he states: "The Trump Administration will make America energy independent. We will end the war on coal, and rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration. " He promises to rip up climate deals and get th...more

  • Cruising: A Dirty Secret

    Nov 15 2016

    A new cruise ship terminal is planned for Greenwich. Enderby Wharf will bring holiday makers right into the heart of the UK's capital city. Greenwich is an existing pollution hotspot. Heavy traffic from nearby Trafalgar Road and the Blackwall Tunnel mean that air quality limits are frequently breached. Bringing a cruise ship into the area will further exacerbate the problem, increasing traffic bringing goods and services to the terminal. Residents have raised concerns that visiting ships would...more

  • Putting the Fizz Back into Planet Earth

    Nov 08 2016

    Can we find a use for all that pesky climate-changing carbon dioxide? If we can turn excess CO2 into something useful we might just be able to slow down the rate of global warming. It's a dream shared by lots of scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. At the ACI Carbon Utilisation conference in Lyon, Tom meets the Germans turning CO2 into a fuel and the French researchers aiming to mimic nature's photosynthesis process. In Oxford he talks to a company making fertiliser from waste and a chemist...more

  • Nuclear Futures

    Nov 01 2016

    Our nuclear power stations are being pushed to run well past their planned life-span. Matthew Hill asks if this is putting us all in danger. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Forests of the Orangutan

    Oct 25 2016

    Some of the last refuges of the Orangutan are under threat. As food manufacturers demand more palm oil for their processed products so the pressure grows on the forests of Indonesia which contain some the last of the Orangutan and some of the world's densest reserves of carbon-capturing peat. Peter Hadfield travels to Borneo to witness the forest being cleared and the peat being destroyed. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • The British Countryside after Brexit

    Oct 18 2016

    Tom Heap hears four radical visions for the future of the British countryside after Brexit. He's joined by Baroness Young, Chair of the Woodland Trust and former head of the Environment Agency and the RSPB, the writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot, economist Michael Liebreich and by Welsh hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones. Can they come up with a plan for the British landscape once the Common Agricultural Policy and European environmental legislation are consigned to history? Producer: Mart...more

  • Wildlife-Friendly Motorways

    Oct 11 2016

    Motorways kill animals. That's unavoidable. But can road builders minimise the death toll with badger tunnels, bat flyovers, and green bridges covered in plants rather than tarmac? Tom Heap travels to the Gwent Levels and the Netherlands to find out. Producer: Sarah Swadling.

  • Spiritual Greens

    Oct 04 2016

    Tom Heap drops in on the 50th anniversary celebrations of the green magazine Resurgence. With its origins in the peace movement, the magazine has championed the spiritual side of the ecological movement. Tom talks to some of its most famous contributors - and their critics - to take stock of what the last half century of green activism has - and hasn't - achieved. Producer: Chris Ledgard.

  • The Growing Season

    Sep 27 2016

    The Met Office recently issued a report which states that the growing season in the UK is now one month longer than it was in the 1960's. Keen gardeners may notice that spring bulbs are coming up much earlier and that fruit like apples are flowering sooner in the year whilst some farmers can now bring in their harvest before the end of the summer. Peter Gibbs discovers that whilst there are opportunities for growers in more Northerly latitudes rapid changes globally may put yields of vital crops...more

  • Fruits of the Forest

    Sep 21 2016

    Can the growing of fashionable super fruits save the Amazon rain forest? Peter Hadfield meets the native farmers finding ways to profit from the forest without chopping it down. In the dark days of the 1980s vast tracts of the Amazon disappeared every year, the trees sold for furniture production and the naked land converted into cattle pasture. International campaigns and the brave struggle of local activists eventually led to reserves being set up in which native people could harvest forest n...more

  • Cities Without Cars

    Sep 14 2016

    The battle in big cities continues: how do you keep cars out to cut congestion and reduce pollution? Chris Ledgard visits Paris and Barcelona to explore two different approaches. In Paris, the mayor's office wants to ban the most polluting cars, and coloured stickers are being introduced to help the authorities determine which vehicles can enter the city centre. Meanwhile, more and more Paris residents are turning to the electric car-sharing scheme, Autolib. We hear how it works. In Barcelona, u...more

  • Big Oil Big Trouble

    Sep 06 2016

    The big oil companies are the pantomime villains of the global warming debate. They've been accused of everything from climate change denial to commercial incompetence in a rapidly changing world. Campaigners attack their boardroom practices and push pension funds and universities to withdraw their investments. Tom Heap examines the reactions of the likes of Exxon, Shell, BP and Total to the mounting evidence of man-made climate change. How much did they know? How much did they lobby against me...more

  • The Sun King of China

    May 10 2016

    Meet Huang Ming, the Chinese inventor who describes himself as, 'the number one crazy solar guy in the world'. One of the prize exhibits of his museum in northern China is a vintage solar panel. It's a water heater, installed by President Jimmy Carter on the roof of the West Wing of the White House. Back in 1979 the installation was meant to symbolise a new solar-powered future for America. Instead, oil prices fell and Ronald Reagan removed the White House panels. 37 years on and it's China, n...more

  • Four Menus to Save the Planet

    May 03 2016

    How should we eat to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet? Should we all give up meat? Or eat only meat that's reared on grassland which couldn't be used for anything else? Or maybe eat intensively-reared meat that grows so fast that it has no time to emit a lot of methane before it's slaughtered? Aside from meat, how important are food miles? Some argue that food grown in hot countries and transported here by boat has a lower overall carbon footprint than food grown in Britain. ...more

  • After Chernobyl

    Apr 26 2016

    When radioactive particles from the Chernobyl disaster landed in Germany's Black Forest one woman decided to change her country's relationship with nuclear energy forever. Julian Rush meets Ursula Sladek, founder of EWS Energy and prime mover in Germany's abandonment of nuclear energy. Following the story from the first detection of radioactive particles, through the persistent impact of radioactive caesium in the soil to the rapid development of renewable energy after the Fukushima disaster o...more

  • The Mars of the Mid-Atlantic

    Apr 19 2016

    Ascension Island is a tiny scrap of British territory, marooned in the tropical mid-Atlantic roughly halfway between Brazil and Africa. It's the tip of a giant undersea volcano - rugged, remote and, up until around 150 years ago, almost completely devoid of vegetation. Peter Gibbs visits to learn how 19th-century botanist Joseph Hooker, encouraged by Charles Darwin, planted a forest on the island's summit to trap moisture brought by the trade winds, introducing a panoply of flora from around th...more

  • Digging Climate Change

    Apr 12 2016

    Professor Alice Roberts asks if archaeology can help us understand climate change. Producer: Helen Lennard.

  • From Iceland with Love

    Apr 05 2016

    The Ice Link interconnector would link Iceland's cheap and carbon free electricity from hydro and geothermal to the UK. It could provide the equivalent power of a medium sized power plant through a copper cable laid under the sea between the two countries. Crucially the power would be reliable and available when other renewable sources such as wind and solar are not. However, as Tom Heap discovers when he visits the land of fire and ice, environmental campaigners like Bjork fear that this green ...more

  • Beasts of the Border

    Mar 29 2016

    As gates close against migrants entering Europe Tom Heap is in Croatia to examine the wildlife impact of the continent's new borders. Red deer have been found dying on the razor wire and the vulnerable local population of lynx is now split between Slovenia and Croatia. With a shrunken gene pool the lynx could soon be lost from the region. From the Austrian Alps, south through the Balkans to Greece the mountains provide a vital habitat for large carnivores like bear and wolf. As new fences rise...more

  • Litter

    Mar 22 2016

    The government in Westminster has promised England a new, national anti-litter strategy. But how do you persuade a throwaway society to use a bin? Chris Ledgard reports on anti-littering campaigns, from the litter ambassadors in the Swiss mountains, to litter enforcement officers in Wolverhampton. And he meets David Sedaris, a man dedicated to cleaning up the streets where he lives. Producer: Chris Ledgard.

  • The Environment after Exit

    Mar 15 2016

    From Roman Snails and Great Crested Newts in East Anglia to the lemon sole of the English Channel and the wind turbines of Fife, European legislation has a significant impact on the look and health of our wildlife and landscape. Tom Heap examines the potential impact on the British environment of an exit from the European Union. Produced by Alasdair Cross and Robin Markwell.

  • New York's Big Green Clean

    Mar 08 2016

    Tom Heap visits New York to find out how the city is cleaning up its dirty waterways and bringing back oysters to the harbour. New York is highly populated. The 8 and a half million inhabitants of the five boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island use a lot of water and create a lot of waste. As a result the myriad of waterways, streams and creeks that all flow around the city, the network of 'sewersheds' that meander below the sidewalks, not to mention the vast river...more

  • Acoustic Ecology

    Mar 03 2016

    Peter Gibbs asks whether sound could become a vital tool in conservation, helping us understand far more about how wildlife interacts and how it is affected by changes in the environment . Technological advances in recording mean that we can now record huge amounts of data in remote locations. By using algorithms scientists hope to break down complex interactions between animals and their environment and be able to predict change or protect species. This is the emerging science of soundscape eco...more

  • The City That Fell into the Earth

    Feb 23 2016

    How do you move a city? Lesley Riddoch travels to Arctic Sweden to find out. Kiruna is gradually sliding into Europe's biggest iron ore mine. The city has to be rebuilt two miles away. That requires an extraordinary blend of planning, architecture, technology and stoicism. If anyone can do it then it's the Swedes. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Requiem for a King

    Feb 16 2016

    Tom Heap tells the story of coal from Industrial Revolution to its apparent demise. As the world begins to fall out of love with coal, is it too early to write its obituary? Coal drove the Industrial Revolution in this country. It could be argued that it helped to put the 'Great' into Great Britain. Now, at least in Britain, we're turning our back on the sooty black stuff. The last deep pit, Kellingley Colliery, closed in December 2015 and all of the coal-fired power stations in the UK are s...more

  • Britain Disconnected

    Feb 09 2016

    Extreme weather this winter has cut off large areas of Britain from the outside world. Does our Victorian infrastructure need an urgent update? With parts of Cumbria cut-off since early December, bridges down in Yorkshire, hundreds of ferry cancellations and the West Coast train line out of action until March it's increasingly clear that Britain can't cope with the strong winds and floods that are becoming the new norm. Should we embark on a new transport revolution, pouring concrete and layi...more

  • Murder in Cambodia

    Nov 20 2015

    Peter Hadfield travels to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to investigate the illegal trade in Siamese Rosewood. Rosewood is a hard wood that is highly prized because it can be carved into ornate items of furniture, but the appetite for the wood is so voracious that Siamese Rosewood is now becoming critically endangered. The wood is traded on the black market and now the Siamese Rosewood tree is close to being totally eradicated. Not only that, those responsible for the smuggling are leaving a ...more

  • In Conversation with David Attenborough

    Nov 17 2015

    David Attenborough and a panel of influential thinkers on the natural world join Tom Heap to preview this month's Climate Summit in Paris. Can the world's leaders come to an agreement to save a warming planet? The director of Titanic, Avatar and Terminator, James Cameron tells Tom that a vegan diet can slash our carbon emissions. Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd recalls what went wrong at the last climate summit in Copenhagen and explains why he's so much more hopeful of real commit...more

  • River Quality

    Nov 03 2015

    Campaigners claim England's river life is under threat from 'insidious' pollution, yet the Environment Agency says rivers are at their healthiest in 20 years. Tom Heap visits the River Itchen, in Hampshire, and the River Thames to discover where the truth might lie. This is an important moment for rivers, the next five year plan for improving them is about to be published. The Government Minister for the Natural Environment, Rory Stewart, tells Tom what his priorities will be. Presenter: Tom H...more

  • Antipasto Agony

    Oct 27 2015

    Bad news for lovers of tapenade and pesto. Olive trees are succumbing to a new disease. Tom Heap reports from Puglia on the ultimate foodie nightmare. The heel of Italy is currently gripped by an outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa, a voracious tree disease that is systematically devastating olive groves in the main areas of production for olive oil. 95% of the world's olive trees are in the Mediterranean, and Italy is the world's second largest exporter of oil, behind Spain. Rural communities ris...more

  • Coast: 50 Years of Change

    Oct 20 2015

    A new report from the National Trust reveals how how our coast has changed over the last 50 years. Tom Heap asks if we've become better or worse at protecting the nation's prime asset. He joins John Whittow who led a team of students to survey the coast in 1965 and compares his findings with a brand new study from Leicester University. Has the rapid urbanisation of the 1960s continued or has the tide been turned? What new threats are on the horizon? Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Paying For Our Parks

    Oct 13 2015

    Our National Parks are getting less money from central government - some have seen their grant cut by 40% in the past 5 years. To make up the shortfall, they're exploring new commercial opportunities. As well as coming up with individual fund-raising plans, the 15 National Parks in England, Wales and Scotland have formed a joint body, called National Parks Partnerships. It's exploring new ways of selling their collective logo: "Britain's Breathing Spaces". The idea is modeled on a similar organ...more

  • Lungs, Lies and Automobiles

    Oct 06 2015

    Have we been lied to about the quality of the air we breathe? Do car manufacturers, regulators and farmers have some explaining to do about their emissions to the atmosphere? Tom Heap investigates. Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

  • Where Have All Our Gardens Gone?

    Sep 29 2015

    Urban Britain is paving over its front gardens. Lawns, hedges and hollyhocks are being replaced by tarmac and car ports. Each garden may be tiny, but with over 50 million front gardens in the UK, the numbers really add up. It's an environmental problem, quite literally on our doorsteps, and Jheni Osman is finding out what can be done about it. In Ealing, West London, Jheni meets Leigh Hunt, Horticultural Adviser to the RHS. He reveals that according to their statistics a quarter of all gardens ...more

  • Oceans of Acid

    Sep 22 2015

    As the oceans absorb manmade carbon emissions a chemical reaction takes place which is making sea water more acidic. This subtle shift in pH level is having a profound effect on the sea animals which use calcium carbonate to form their shells and skeletons and Marine Biologists are now discovering that this could have implications across the world's oceans. Already shellfish industries in America are being adversely affected and scientists are working hard to predict how the world's fisheries mi...more

  • Britain Rules the Waves

    Sep 15 2015

    Britain still owns islands large and small across the globe, from Pitcairn to South Georgia and Bermuda to Ascension. Could we use the waters around these territories to protect vast swathes of the oceans from overfishing and development? Tom Heap meets the islanders and the conservationists eager to see if Britain really can lead the way. He takes to the water to see how Gibraltar is using its spawning grounds to restore the health of the Mediterranean and finds out what the enormous new no-fi...more

  • Sounds of the Seas

    Sep 08 2015

    How noisy is the underwater environment? Tom Heap dips beneath the surface to find out if man-made noise is affecting the marine life that lives below the waves. Costing The Earth begins a new series with three programmes investigating the health of our oceans. The team tackles ocean acidification and how the UK plans to protect marine areas in its overseas territories but first Tom Heap delves into a mystery soundscape: one that exists underwater. Scientists are only just beginning to study t...more

  • Electric Island

    May 19 2015

    The little Scottish island of Eigg is teaching the world how remote communities can power themselves with clean, green energy. Tom Heap meets the locals who've built the pioneering system and the international visitors who are eager to learn their secrets. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • The Ozone Hole Thirty Years On

    May 12 2015

    In May 1985 Joe Farman, Jonathan Shanklin and Brian Gardiner of the British Antarctic Survey published their paper in the scientific journal Nature. It revealed there was a large and expanding hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic and that the cause was the chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs then commonly used in aerosols and refrigerants. The size and speed at which the hole had formed was alarming and the paper helped convince governments across the globe to take action. The resulting Montreal...more

  • Britain's Environment: The Debate

    May 05 2015

    How will the next government tackle Britain's environmental problems? The politics of the environment and our food supply are vital for the future of the planet. Tom Heap hosts a debate asking if this election campaign has raised the issues that need addressing. What specific commitments have the political parties made on nature? Where are the big ideas to tackle climate change? How can we secure our food supplies without wrecking the planet? Tom Heap will put these challenging issues to...more

  • China's Water Revolution

    Apr 28 2015

    China has powered its development with water. When it needed energy for industry it built the largest hydro-electric dams in the world. When the farmland and factories of northern China were threatened with drought an enormous canal was built to pipe supplies from the south. China has the engineering skill, the capital and the will to challenge the limits that nature sets on development. But the exploitation of China's water resources has come at a great cost, forcing millions from their homes, ...more

  • Eco-Cities

    Apr 23 2015

    Tom Heap investigates whether eco-cities are living up to their promise. In years gone by, Costing the Earth has visited two eco-cities, which both promised that rapid urban development could be green, sustainable and profitable. Dongtan in China was meant to be part of "the quest to create a new world", according to British designers Arup. Masdar in the Arabian Gulf was to have "changed the world", according to British architect Norman Foster. But Dongtan never got built, thanks to Chinese pol...more

  • Cycle City

    Apr 14 2015

    The bulldozers have already begun work on London's 'cycle superhighways' or 'Crossrail for bikes'. Cycling enthusiasts have declared these segregated lanes to be the infrastructure which London needs to make cycling much more appealing for all. Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor's Cycling Commissioner says if Transport for London can get the engineering right then cycling in the capital will become safer and far more people might make the switch from cars, buses and trains to carbon free pedal power. Th...more

  • Reds Return

    Apr 07 2015

    Could the return of the Pine Marten mean the end of the Grey Squirrel takeover? Tom Heap examines emerging evidence that where Pine Marten populations are healthy, Grey Squirrel numbers crash and native Red Squirrels increase. Tom meets the researchers who found the connection in Ireland, and who are now investigating whether it's also happening in Scotland. The Pine Marten is itself recovering from years of persecution and is still only found in tiny pockets of England and Wales. If the P...more

  • Climate Change: Inconvenient Facts?

    Mar 31 2015

    With arctic sea ice shrinking and Antarctic sea ice growing, Tom Heap asks what is happening to the climate. Despite the consensus of scientists around the world, there are still some anomalies in the computer models of the future climate. Tom Heap is joined by a panel of experts to tackle some of the difficult questions that lead to uncertainties in our understanding of the changing climate. The perceived wisdom in the scientific community is that the climate is warming but evidence shows tha...more

  • The Price of Cheap Oil

    Mar 24 2015

    In this week's Costing The Earth Tom Heap asks what the falling price of oil means for the environment. First thoughts would be 'not good'. Lower prices mean that people don't need to be so careful how much fuel they use so what will the consequences of this be? Will this halt the steady decline in car sales? Will people turn their heating up a notch when they're feeling chilly? Those are the direct impacts on people, but look further and could the drop in oil prices spell disaster for the re...more

  • Lava: A Dangerous Game

    Mar 17 2015

    A report from the United Nations published this week highlights for the first time the international impacts of volcanoes. Previously regarded as a local problem for people in Iceland, Indonesia or Central America the UN now recognises that our interconnected world can be split asunder by relatively small eruptions. The 2010 eruptions in Iceland disrupted air travel for weeks, costing the global economy an estimated $4.9bn. In response enormous improvements are being made in the technology used...more

  • Greening the Green Belt

    Mar 10 2015

    The UK's housing crisis is acute. We need to build but where? Many critics point to the ample green space which surrounds some of our most overcrowded cities and towns. The green belt celebrates 60 years since it became part of National Policy but its history stretches back far further. The idea of a stretch of land which separates the urban from the rural has been commended as the defining planning policy of the nation. This legislation is at the core of our notion of what it is to live in a 'g...more

  • Hunting the Beefalo

    Mar 03 2015

    A failed breeding experiment has led to a hybrid creature running riot in the Grand Canyon. The Beefalo is now growing in number rapidly and causing damage to the landscape, threatening the environment and eco-system and trashing ancient monuments of Native Americans. Yet with a hunting ban in the National Park how can they be controlled? Tom Heap goes in search of the legendary creature and the answers. The iconic bison is on the emblem on the National Parks yet in 1906 its numbers in America ...more

  • Bristol: Green Capital?

    Feb 24 2015

    Bristol has been named as Europe's Green Capital for 2015. Tom Heap finds out if local people will see real improvements in their city. Trapeze artists and a high wire act on a bicycle, spanning two former warehouses, heralded the start of Bristol's Year as European Green Capital for 2015. The award is a few years old now and goes to a city with outstanding green credentials and ambitions. So how is Bristol shaping up for it's year in the big green spotlight? A year ago Costing The Earth aske...more

  • The Ice in Iceland

    Feb 17 2015

    Iceland is warming faster than most countries, two to four times faster than the global average temperature rise. A quirk of geography means that the island's plants and animals are having to cope with rapidly rising temperatures whilst their neighbours in the rest of northern Europe warm much more gradually. Glaciers are melting, trees are growing much faster and arable farming is suddenly possible and profitable. Tom Heap travels through Iceland to gauge the impact on the landscape and the pe...more

  • Taming Australia

    Feb 10 2015

    Australian Premier, Tony Abbott is determined to develop his Northern Territory. With the enormous markets of South-East Asia on the doorstep of Darwin there's huge potential for oil, gas, mining and agriculture in the thinly-populated north. Locals welcome the prospect of jobs but there's a real concern that the extraordinary landscape of the north could be lost. Mining and intensive agriculture require water in vast quantities. To get it dams will have to be built and groundwater abstracted. ...more

  • Arctic Future

    Nov 04 2014

    The melting sea ice of the Arctic creates opportunities and threats for the people and wildlife of the region. This week the leaders of the polar nations are in Iceland to map out a future for the region at the Arctic Circle conference. Will oil and gas production ravage the north or bring jobs and money to impoverished local people? Will Russian designs on Arctic riches provoke conflict or link the region to the global economy? And what's in it for Britain? Can our expertise in polar science ...more

  • Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

    Oct 28 2014

    Despite being protected on paper, many of the world's and the UK's rare plants and flowers are being targeted by thieves and smugglers. From the moment a new species is discovered it can have a high price on its head, with collectors going to the ends of the earth to source a prized specimen. Tom Heap discovers how easy it is to find rare plants for sale on the net and how such trade not only threatens those plant species with extinction but could destroy the elements within them that could help...more

  • Making a Splash

    Oct 21 2014

    Tom Heap meets Darren Reynolds, a health and environment professor, who has developed a mini treatment plant that can turn dirty water into clean drinkable water. The technology could be transported around the globe and put to use in places where clean water is scarce, such as in areas where there is a humanitarian crisis. Costing The Earth discovers how the machine works and looks at other technology that could improve the water supplies of millions of people around the world. Presenter: Tom...more

  • Scuba Squad: Cleaning the Ocean

    Oct 14 2014

    Cleaning the ocean floor, one dive at a time. Miranda Krestovnikoff reports from the sea bed as she joins a new marine clean-up squad. Miranda joins NARC - Neptune's Army of Rubbish Cleaners - in their war against marine litter. Dave Kennard and his band of ocean cleaners dive off the coast of Pembrokeshire recovering fishing gear, bottles, cans and a whole miscellany of unwanted rubbish. They've found trolleys, whole cars, and even the kitchen sink. This week Costing The Earth looks at the pr...more

  • Saving the Caribbean

    Oct 07 2014

    The small islands of the Caribbean are acutely vulnerable to rising sea levels and a potential increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes. Tom Heap travels to the Turks and Caicos Islands to ask if they're prepared for the worst nature can offer. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • A Decade of Fracking

    Sep 30 2014

    After a decade of fracking, communities in Texas are still arguing about the pros and cons of the shale gas industry. With the industry ready to begin production in Lancashire, Tom Heap compares and contrasts the hopes and fears of Texans with those of the villagers of the Fylde coast. Producer: Anne-Marie Bullock.

  • Power to the People

    Sep 24 2014

    There's no doubt that 'People Power' can transform a community, when keen volunteers come together to collectively improve their lot. But what happens when People Power can be measured in watts and volts? Communities up and down the country are taking the power back - literally - from the Big 6, and starting a variety of schemes to generate their own energy. They're reducing their bills, strengthening community spirit - and helping the UK towards its renewable energy targets at the same time. ...more

  • El Nino: Driving the Planet's Weather

    Sep 16 2014

    Meteorologist, Peter Gibbs investigates the global impact of the weather phenomenon El Nino. Forecasts predict El Nino will occur at the end of this year, creating fear in many communities around the world. Flooding, drought and famine have all been caused by the phenomenon in the past. Peruvian fishermen are often the first to notice as warmer waters change the behaviour of coastal fish stocks. Peter hears what they've already noticed and finds out how these changes could have ripple effects a...more

  • When Mosquitoes Attack!

    Sep 09 2014

    Jheni Osman investigates whether the threat of mosquito-borne disease is moving closer to home in the UK. She joins Public Health England's Medical Entomologist, Jolyon Medlock, hunting for signs of the invasive Asian Tiger Mosquito in the motorway service stations of Kent. The mosquito has been spreading across the world in waste tyres exported for recycling. Jheni spends an evening as the bait in a trapping study, designed to find out whether there is a risk of West Nile Virus being spread by ...more

  • Texan Drought

    Sep 02 2014

    Whilst many parts of the United States have suffered drought this summer, for Texas it's been going on for years. Wells and reservoir levels are at a fraction of what they should be and farmers and residents have been forced to face some big changes. Climatologists say this is the second worst drought in recorded history but if it continues it could soon surpass that experienced in the 1950s. Tom Heap visits cattle and crop farmer Kenneth McAlister who lives near one of the areas in 'exceptiona...more

  • The Diesel Decade

    Aug 26 2014

    The air quality in our towns and cities has remained stubbornly filthy over the last ten years despite tightening regulations on the poisonous emissions our cars can legally belch out. That means more lung disease and more heart attacks. New research is pointing the finger of suspicion at the dramatic rise in the number of diesel vehicles on our roads. Take a look at the data from car manufacturers and it seems that diesel engines are getting significantly cleaner. Independent monitoring sugges...more

  • Britain's Overseas Wildlife

    May 20 2014

    Britain's Overseas Territories from the Caribbean to the Falkland Islands contain a treasure trove of wildlife. A new report from the RSPB reveals that 94% of unique UK species live beyond our shores. But many of those astonishing creatures are at great threat from tourist development and invasive species. To discover whether we are doing enough to protect our secret garden of species Tom Heap visits the Turks and Caicos Islands, 150 miles to the east of Cuba.

  • Energy Storage

    May 13 2014

    Massive batteries? Compressing or liquefying air? Moving gravel uphill on ski lifts? Tom Heap looks at some of the big ideas proposed for storing energy using science or the landscape and explores which may become a reality if we're to keep the lights on. Huge investment is being made in renewable energy but as solar and wind fluctuate and are intermittent often energy goes to waste because the points at which they generate isn't when the demand occurs. So why not use that energy and store it ...more

  • The Future of Our Food

    May 06 2014

    Costing the Earth debates one of the most important issues facing the planet that affects all of us: Where will our food come from in the decades ahead. The world population is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. That's another 2.5 billion mouths to feed, roughly the number of people currently living in China and India today. Tom Heap is joined by an panel to chew over the question of what the world will eat as populations rise, climate changes and vital resources are depleted. The panel i...more

  • Chemical Weapons: 100 Years On

    Apr 29 2014

    With the end of April being the deadline for Syria's President Assad to sacrifice his entire arsenal of chemical weapons, Tom Heap finds out the nitty-gritty of how they're going to be disposed of. This involves previously untried methods such as neutralising the most dangerous chemicals on board an American vessel, the MV Cape Ray. This, as we'll hear, presents its own problems. Other Syrian chemicals will be destroyed in Port Ellesmere in Cheshire, as well as in the United States, Germany and ...more

  • Power of Scotland

    Apr 22 2014

    Scotland is the principal source of Britain's renewable energy as well as its oil and gas. What would independence mean for the UK energy market? Would England struggle to source clean energy? Could Scotland continue to subsidise its wind turbines and tidal energy schemes? What would a split mean for energy prices in Scotland and in the rest of the UK? Tom Heap reports from Edinburgh on an energetic debate that's certain to heat up as the Scottish independence referendum approaches. Producer: ...more

  • Living It Small

    Apr 15 2014

    Did you have a tree house or a den as a child and think you could happily live there? What is the smallest space you could live in without being driven doolally? As the demand for houses and the cost to buy and run them shoots upwards, it seems more of us may be thinking small and bijou is cosy and obtainable...and the environment could be benefitting by default. Tom Heap (6 foot 2 inches tall) explores the world of the micro-home - compact spaces often skimming minimum space standards. Some o...more

  • Flight from Disaster

    Apr 08 2014

    When millions of litres of poisonous sludge poured out of a zinc mine in Andalucia in 1998 wildlife was devastated for miles around. As the tidal wave of filth headed for the marshlands of Donana National Park it became a disaster for Europe as well as Spain. The prime route for birds migrating between Africa and Northern Europe seemed certain to be poisoned for decades to come. Sixteen years on from Spain's worst environmental disaster Julian Rush returns to the region to discover how nature, ...more

  • A Resilient World?

    Apr 01 2014

    Following the publication of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Tom Heap and a group of climate experts debate how nations and populations around the world will have to adapt and prepare for the effects of climate change in the coming decades. Recent extreme weather events may suggest that the effects of climate change are beginning to show, so what can be done to mitigate the impact? Producer: Martin Poyntz-Roberts.

  • Britain's Green Capital 2015

    Mar 28 2014

    In 2015 Bristol will be European Green Capital. We discover exactly what the title means to the city and what makes Bristol so environmentally friendly. The 'Green Capital' award is new. It's been going for the last five years and next year Bristol will become the sixth. Miranda Krestovnikoff discovers why Bristol was successful in it's bid and what makes the city stand out from the rest of the country for it's environmental credentials. Miranda visits last year's winning city, Nantes to find ...more

  • Feeding the Crops of the Future

    Mar 18 2014

    Tom Heap looks at whether we're running out of phosphorus. It's an essential element in fertiliser and all life on earth depends on it. Nowadays we get it from mining phosphate rock, which is a finite resource. Some scientists have predicted that we could run out within decades. Britain has no phosphate rock reserves of its own, and with 80 per cent of known rock under the control of one country, Morocco, should we be taking future supplies more seriously, as a matter of national security? Tom...more

  • Future-proofing Forests

    Mar 11 2014

    Ash dieback was discovered in the UK in late 2012 and since then has been killing many of the UK's ash trees. But it's not the only threat - many pests and diseases are attacking different species which make up our forests and ancient woodlands. Julian Rush asks if our trees are simply vulnerable victims, susceptible to diseases, or if they have the strength to fight back. He visits Wentwood in South Wales where phytophthora ramorum (PR) has infected larch trees causing the clear felling of ove...more

  • Nuclear Waste's Final Destination

    Mar 04 2014

    Nuclear power is back on the UK's agenda, but what to do with the long-lasting radioactive waste remains the problem. Costing The Earth investigates the best ways to dispose of the waste produced by the generation of nuclear power. Rob Broomby travels to France where more than 75% of electricity is generated by nuclear power stations. He visits Aube where they are taking care of low and intermediate level waste. It is being stored in concrete and then will be grassed over and monitored for the...more

  • A Greener Way to Go

    Feb 25 2014

    Many of us are trying to lead a greener life, but how many of us will continue the trend to its logical conclusion... into death? On this week's Costing the Earth, Tom Heap takes to the ocean waves, the forest floor, and the lab, to try and suss out the 'greenest way to go'. Over 70% of us here in the UK choose to be cremated, and the majority of the rest are buried - '6 feet under' - in traditional cemeteries. But for those who might worry about the fossil fuel cost of being burned, or the tox...more

  • Britain Under Water

    Feb 18 2014

    It's time to fight back against nature. For two months great swathes of Britain have been paralysed by torrential rain, storms and flooding. Tom Heap has had enough. In a special edition of 'Costing the Earth' he'll be eschewing the moaning and buck-passing in favour of a search for a long-term solution to Britain's vulnerability. With the help of an expert panel including Richard Betts from the Met Office, Phil Dyke from the National Trust, farmer Guy Smith and civil engineer Ola Holmstrom Tom...more

  • A Toilet for the 21st Century

    Feb 11 2014

    There are 2.5 billion people living on the planet without access to basic sanitation. As a result hundreds of children die from diseases such as diarrhoea every day, and women and children risk personal safety when they perform the simplest of human functions. In this week's Costing The Earth Dr Kat Arney looks at ways to allow everyone to have access to safe, clean, environmentally friendly toilets. She visits a toilet festival in London to find out about toilet designs that can be applied ...more

  • The End of Plastic

    Nov 05 2013

    Tom Heap meets a man on a mission: Eben Bayer is determined to eradicate plastic and polystyrene from the packaging industry and replace it with a bio-degradable fungus. And he thinks he's cracked it. By combining fungus with agricultural waste to create packaging that's cheap, durable and biodegradable, Bayer hopes to disrupt an environmentally destructive industry valued globally at around £13 billion. He's looking at ways to roll his product out across the USA and beyond. Plus scientists ar...more

  • Hot in the City

    Oct 29 2013

    Heatwaves and rising temperatures are killing thousands of people each year and that's expected to increase dramatically in the future. Tom Heap asks if our cities are becoming uninhabitable and goes in search of the innovative design changes we migh have to incorporate into our homes, offices and cities to survive. The'urban heat island effect' has shown how temperatures can reach their highest in cities compared to the surrounding countryside. Rising Summer temperatures for prolonged periods...more

  • Our Neighbours Are Elephants!

    Oct 22 2013

    Urban sprawl is now impacting on the habitats of wildlife in countries around the world, so how can wildlife and city dwellers live together? Reports from cities around the world ask what should be done if your new next door neighbours turn out to be wild animals: Bob Walker reports from Malaysia on the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants project that Nottingham University are working on to find out what is being done there to maintain a harmonius balance between humans and huge beast...more

  • Mind the Gap

    Oct 15 2013

    Our energy needs are growing as our energy supply dwindles. Renewables have not come online quickly enough and we are increasingly reliant on expensive imported gas or cheap but dirty coal. Last year the UK burnt 50% more coal than in previous years but this helped reverse years of steadily declining carbon dioxide emissions. By 2015 6 coal fired power stations will close and the cost of burning coal will increase hugely due to the introduction of the carbon price floor. Shale gas and biomass ha...more

  • CSI Landfill

    Oct 08 2013

    Tom Heap discovers landfill mining: finding value in what's been thrown away. He visits Belgium to meet the first prospectors digging for treasure in trash. For years rubbish has been thrown away and sent to landfill sites, but now there are moves to look at what's been discarded as a resource. Metals, plastics, ceramics and minerals are all buried under ground. As waste in landfill decomposes it emits gases. All are rich pickings and valuable to those looking to recycle and reuse the waste we...more

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

    Oct 01 2013

    Tom Heap reports on the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He's joined by a panel of top scientists and thinkers to pick over the report and discover what the indications are for the global climate over the next few decades. The panel includes: Professor Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist Sir Mark Walport, UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, Author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" Professor Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate and Cultu...more

  • Burn That Fat!

    Sep 30 2013

    Fighting the fat can be a difficult issue - and not just for our waistlines. Old cooking oil from our takeaways and roast dinners can cause major problems - from polluting watercourses to blocking sewers and causing flooding if not disposed of carefully. But rising commodity prices and surprising new uses have turned it from waste product to wonder in some people's eyes. Tom Heap slides his way to a fat recycling plant where everything from large scale tubs of mayonnaise to tiny butter sachets ...more

  • Sharks Attacked

    Sep 17 2013

    Ever since the film 'Jaws' hit the big screen, sharks have been portrayed as aggressive, indiscriminate killers. But in reality there are only a handful of deaths as a result of shark attacks each year, whilst around 70 million sharks are killed by humans, pushing many species to the brink of extinction. There are over 30 species of shark living in UK waters, but many are under threat. From the small, lesser known 'smooth-hounds' that are a couple of feet long, up to the larger species (blues ...more

  • Waste Watchers

    Sep 10 2013

    In 2011 a major report involving 400 experts from 35 countries issued stark warnings about the future food supply. The Foresight report stressed in order to feed a growing world population there was an urgent need to produce more food sustainable but also to deal with waste. It claimed globally 30% of food is never eaten. So did anyone listen? The amount of food waste has often been raised but Kat Arney goes in search of the game changers , to find out who's making effective changes to stop goo...more

  • The Palm Oil Palm Off

    Sep 03 2013

    In June this year a thick haze descended over Singapore, causing record air pollution levels which left streets empty and forcing children, the sick and elderly to stay indoors. It was attributed to the illegal burning of forests in Indonesia to clear land to plant palm oil. It was a visible reminder of a practice which has been continuing for years but, say environmental groups, which must be stopped. Palm oil is in hundreds of products, from detergents and cosmetics to biscuits and now biofue...more

  • Electric Cars Recharged

    Aug 27 2013

    It has been the Next Big Thing for longer than most people can remember but there are signs that the much-derided electric car may finally be poised for its moment in the sun. For Costing the Earth, Tom Heap visits the factory where a major European car maker's latest electric supermini takes its place on the same production line as its petrol and diesel cousins. And he discovers that experts believe that success will come this time thanks to a combination of improved technology, commercial im...more

  • GM Update: Pig 26

    May 21 2013

    Tom Heap investigates the latest developments in GM technology. He visits the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute for the latest on precision genome engineering in animals and discovers the story behind "Pig 26", the first genetically-modified pig. Scientist Bruce Whitelaw tells Tom Heap that Pig 26 has been genetically 'edited' with the hope that scientists at Roslin can create pigs that are resistant to African Swine Fever, an aggressive disease that is fatal to pigs. It's currently v...more

  • The Cost of Cruising

    May 14 2013

    When the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground in January 2012 with the loss of 32 passengers and crew the environmental dangers to the Tuscan coastline were obvious. The complex salvage operation has begun and there's real concern that the movement of the settled wreck could result in a new disaster. Julian Rush reports from the island of Giglio on the hopes and fears of local people and considers the risks that the new generation of super-size cruise liners pose to some of the most beautifu...more

  • Bees Fight Back

    May 09 2013

    Much heat has been generated about about modern pesticides called neonicotinoids. Their supporters - the companies which make them, the farmers who use them and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - say they are vital to protect crops and boost yields in a hungry world. They say jobs would be threatened in a big way if they were outlawed and that there is no scientific proof that they are harming pollinating insects which are also vital to agriculture. On the other side of th...more

  • Amphibian Extinction

    Apr 30 2013

    Frogs, toads and newts are becoming a less frequent sight in our ponds and gardens. Globally 40% of amphibians - almost 2000 species - are threatened with extinction according to the IUCN red list. Some scientists even say we're on the verge of the 6th mass extinction. Yet with things at such an alarming state Tom Heap asks what's being done to save these creatures and if it's too little too late? Amphibians are a key part of the food chain but not only do they control less favoured bugs, they ...more

  • Fish - The Next Fight

    Apr 23 2013

    Tom Heap meets the activists hoping to bring an end to illegal fishing by tackling the problem head on: by getting in the way of pirate fishermen. The Black Fish is a relatively new NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) who aim to stop the fishing of juvenile Bluefin Tuna in the Mediterranean and prevent to use of illegal drift nets - by cutting them. Drift nets were banned by the United Nations in 1992 but they are still used illegally around the world. The Black Fish are soon to launch unmanne...more

  • The Deepest Lake on Earth

    Apr 19 2013

    Russia's Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, containing 20% of the world's unfrozen fresh water. Dr Anson Mackay from University College London is one of a team drilling through the bed of this extraordinary body of water. The cores of sediment that they pull up from the depths will tell us not just about the environmental history of Baikal, they'll tell us about 1000s of years of global climate change. Today the lake is threatened by pollution, rising population and Mongoli...more

  • CSI Rhino

    Apr 09 2013

    Tom Heap discovers an unlikely battle in the war to protect remaining wild rhino populations being fought here in the UK. Rhino horn is now worth twice as much as gold because of its perceived value in Asian medicine. New markets in Vietnam have increased the pressure from poaching on wild populations but also on horn found in museums and zoos in the UK. Museums are now warned not to display real rhino horn and zoos like Colchester have had to increase security measures to protect their live rhi...more

  • The Urban Farmers

    Apr 03 2013

    Alice Roberts revisits the - quite literally - ground breaking 'Incredible Edibles' concept of Todmorden and finds that their inspiration has spread across the UK. Wasteland throughout our cities is being turned into productive agricultural land. Forget roof top gardens, green walls and window boxes, what we're talking about here is derelict, often hazardous brown field sites hidden within our urban landscapes that are now becoming a valuable link in our food chain. But that's not all, in recl...more

  • Exotic Pets

    Mar 26 2013

    The demand for exotic and unusual pets is growing. Reptiles and amphibians , including snakes, lizards and geckos are popular pets for those looking for something alternative to cats and dogs. Some are captive bred or captive farmed and others are caught from the wild. The British Veterinary Association is re-evaluating its position on wild caught animals but the animal lobby group the Animal Protection Agency has called for a ban on the trade completely. They argue it causes suffering to the an...more

  • Green Babies

    Mar 19 2013

    2013 is predicted to see the biggest baby boom in 40 years. Whether it's the Royal baby or an after effect of the Olympics nobody is certain. But what does this mean for the planet? Dr Alice Roberts, who is herself expecting, finds out whether population really is the biggest threat to our environment. The UK really is bucking the trend. In the US fears of a baby bust are coupled to predictions of economic decline. These are after all tiny unborn consumers. This is perhaps why many eminent natur...more

  • The House That Heats Itself

    Mar 12 2013

    Miranda Krestovnikoff looks at new building materials for environmentally-friendly houses and asks where you should start if you want to build your own eco-home. Costing The Earth visits Ashley Vale in Bristol: a self-built community of eco-homes to find out, ten years on, if the project has been a success. Miranda also discovers the latest building materials and techniques available to those embarking on 'grand design' style projects and discovers how difficult and expensive it is to build yo...more

  • Electrifying Africa: Beyond the Grid

    Mar 06 2013

    Micro-solar lamps are now lighting parts of Africa that the grid cannot reach. Tom Heap investigates how the solar spread is emulating the wide reach of mobile phones in Africa. There are currently over 100 million kerosene lamps across Africa that are the main source of light in parts of the continent that are either off-grid or where people cannot afford to hook-up to the electricity grid. These lights are polluting, dangerous and expensive. Burning a kerosene light in a small room produces...more

  • Electrifying Africa: The Power Beneath

    Feb 27 2013

    A geothermal revolution is set to electrify Africa. Tom Heap visits the Rift Valley in Kenya, a potential source of abundant energy to find out if promises to light up even the remotest parts of the continent are going to come true. Tom enters Hell's Gate National Park to meet the engineers harnessing the power of hot steam trapped beneath the crust, and heads north to the Menengai Crater to find geologists prospecting for power. Back in Nairobi Tom meets businessmen and shopkeepers held back ...more

  • Dash for Ash

    Feb 19 2013

    By 2020 the UK must significantly reduce its landfill habit. A recent government report warned that we would run out of landfill space by 2018 and a European Directive means we must reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill from 48% to 35% or face big fines. Next year landfill tax will hit £80 per tonne. Unsurprisingly there has been a huge rise in planning applications for incinerators. 90 are proposed to add to the 30 currently in operation. Waste is big business. Tom Heap visits existing s...more

  • When Nettles Attack!

    Feb 12 2013

    For years we've been warned that invaders from abroad are threatening the quiet majesty of the British countryside. But the latest evidence suggests that the threat from giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam and their foreign friends has been exaggerated. We should really be worried by some more familiar stalwarts of our downs and pastures.Nettles, brambles and ivy are marching across the unmanaged countryside, choking our most sensitive species, stamping out the variety we value in our landscape. In ...more

  • Robot Farmers

    Feb 05 2013

    Satellite technology and advances in robotics are set to revolutionise the future of farming. Out go the heavy, soil destroying combines and tractors, in come a light army of mini robots which weed, spray and pick crops at the optimum time. Expert agronomists will advise thousands of farmers at a time. Using real data, farmers will be able to maximise the yield and quality of the crops as they leave the field. Sarah Cruddas meets the scientists engineering the robotic shepherds of the future, an...more

  • Berlin's Big Gamble

    Jan 29 2013

    It's an environmental experiment on an unprecedented scale. Germany's political parties have agreed to close the country's nuclear power stations and slash its use of coal, oil and gas. But can the industrial powerhouse of Europe really continue to churn out the BMWs and Mercedes on a meagre diet of wind and solar energy? In the first of a new series of 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap travels to Berlin to meet the politicians of right and left who share a vision for a green Germany and the industr...more

  • Future Forests

    Dec 13 2012

    The crisis in Britain's ash forests came as a shock to public and politicians. But is it a vision of the future for our woodlands? Stressed by climate change and vulnerable to pests and diseases crossing the English Channel the prospects seem grim. In a special edition of Costing the Earth Tom Heap asks what our forests will look like in the future. Is there anything we can do to stem the flow of disease, can our native trees be made more resilient or should we consider planting a wider range ...more

  • Tsunami Debris

    Oct 09 2012

    Since the Japanese tsunami 1.5 million tonnes of debris has been floating across the Pacific towards the West coast of North America. Despite predictions that it wouldn't hit land until 2013 ,some material including a ship and a 66 foot dock have already beached - far earlier than expected. The dock itself - which landed in Newport, Oregon was covered in living creatures, including invasive species which could threaten native species and fisheries. It's also feared the debris could endanger wild...more

  • Wave Goodbye?

    Oct 02 2012

    In the choppy waters around Orkney the hopes and dreams of hundreds of scientists, engineers and investors are being pushed to the limit. At the test sites of the European Marine Energy Centre eleven different ways of harnessing the power of the sea are being tested. After four decades of promise Britain seems to be on the verge of discovering how to turn the tides and the waves into useable electricity. All that's holding the industry back is money. Money, and the fearsome engineering diffi...more

  • Apocalypse Then and Now

    Sep 26 2012

    During the Vietnam War two million tons of American bombs were dropped on the tiny nation of Laos, more than the combined weight dropped on Japan and Germany during World War Two. The environmental impact was horrific, destroying forests, killing endangered wildlife and poisoning water supplies. For forty years the people of rural Laos have had to live with the constant fear of stepping on one of the thousands of unexploded bombs that litter the countryside. Bomb clearance has been partial and ...more

  • Cruel Harvest

    Sep 19 2012

    The disastrous global harvest of 2012 has slashed food supplies from the parched Mid-West of the USA to the dusty plains of Ukraine. In this time of crisis many farmers are asking if they should continue to grow crops to be turned into fuel for cars and power stations when they could be feeding more people. Costing the Earth visits the American corn-belt of Missouri and the rape fields of Bedfordshire to investigate the international impact of the tightening food supplies and ask if we need to ...more

  • Chinese Salmon

    Sep 11 2012

    In January 2011 the Scottish Government announced a new deal to supply salmon to China. If only 1% of its population chose to eat it the Scottish industry would have to double in size. The target set is to increase the industry by 50% by 2020. Conor Woodman asks how this can be done without impacting on the environment. Concerns about salmon farming include the spread of sea lice, escapes, pollution of the sea bed and the impact of sea lice treatment on other sea life. However it provides jobs,...more

  • People Power

    Sep 04 2012

    In the UK thousands of people spend many hours - and pounds - looking to burn off energy at gyms and while playing sports. Could that energy be harnessed and used to power some of our gadgets and devices? Tom Heap puts on his trainers and breaks a sweat to find out. Trevor Baylis's wind-up radio revolutionised access to information in Africa by using human power rather than expensive batteries. The inventor also demonstrated his piezoelectric phone-charging shoes by walking across the Namib de...more

  • Britain's Wilderness

    Aug 28 2012

    The first attempt in England to turn a landscape back into a wilderness is 10 years old this year. In this week's Costing The Earth, Miranda Krestovnikoff visits Ennerdale Valley, on the Western edge of the Lake District, to find out how the scheme is progressing. Rewilding, as the scheme has become known, allows natural processes to take place, in order to return the habitat to as natural an environment as possible. The landscape has been managed in such a way that natural flora and fauna hav...more

  • Britain in 2060: The Seas

    Aug 21 2012

    Rising sea temperatures are already bringing new species to our shores. Sunfish, sea turtles and basking sharks are common sights. But what can we expect to see in the fishing nets by 2060? The key to the species that visit these shores is the plankton on which they feed. Species of plankton more usually found in areas of the southern Atlantic ocean are now turning up on our shores, and so are the fish and mammals that feed on them. So will tropical species replace the cod and haddock in Brit...more

  • Britain from 2060: The Land

    Aug 14 2012

    According to the latest predictions on global warming Britain from the 2060s could begin to look rather like Madeira. In the first of a two-part investigation into the impact of climate change Tom Heap visits the island 350 miles from the coast of Morocco to find out how we might be living in the second half of the 21st century. With a climate dominated by the Atlantic, a wet, mountainous north and a warm, dry, over-populated south Madeira already resembles Britain in miniature. The settlers wh...more

  • Jellyfish Invasion!

    May 22 2012

    Jellyfish are taking over the world's oceans, eating baby fish and driving marine ecosystems back to the primitive Cambrian era. Or are they? Although incidents of human-jellyfish interaction are on the increase, it's hard to be sure that the jellies are really increasing in number over the long term. But then again, if we wait till we are sure, won't it be too late? Miranda Krestovnikoff investigates. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.

  • Pushing Water

    May 15 2012

    There's a drought in most of England but plenty of water elsewhere. Why not move it? Yes, water is heavy, but it's also slippery and moves down hill. Tom Heap investigates why water companies seem so reluctant to trade with each other. Some suggest it's because they make their profits by pouring concrete in their own patch, rather than by doing deals with their neighbours. Others think it's because they don't pay a realistic price for the water they take out of rivers in the first place. So are ...more

  • Return of the king

    May 08 2012

    In the rush to come up with new, clean ways to produce electricity many people assumed that dirty old coal was a fuel of the past, a relic of the Industrial Revolution. However, coal's dominance of the market in electricity generation is actually increasing. China is building many new coal-fired power stations. The booming economies of Poland, Australia and South Africa are almost exclusively reliant on coal whilst even the Germans have turned back to the black stuff as they abandon nuclear powe...more

  • Genetically Modified Brunch

    May 01 2012

    Genetically-modified crops provoked scepticism and outright objection from many environmentalists and food campaigners when they were first launched in the 1990s. A new wave of GM crops is on the way but this time, the scientists claim, they will offer clear benefits to the public. There will be orange juice that helps you lose weight, grains fortified with the zinc our bodies need and new sustainable sources of Omega-3. In 'Costing the Earth' investigates the second generation of GM and asks i...more

  • Cruise Ships and Creeks

    Apr 24 2012

    It is the third-largest natural harbour in the world but even so, it isn't deep enough for modern ships. Falmouth in Cornwall wants to invest £100 million to modernise its ship-repairing docks and facilities for cruise liners. The project would create hundreds of jobs, protect existing businesses and bring cash-laden tourists into the surrounding area. It depends on being able to dredge the channel into the harbour and that's where the problem lies - to do so would mean digging up rare calcifie...more

  • Britain in Flames

    Apr 17 2012

    Last spring huge swathes of the British countryside, from Dorset to the West Highlands erupted in flames. In the wake of a dry winter and drought orders across the south there's a real risk of another year of serious wildfires. In 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap investigates the causes of forest and moorland fire and the innovative ideas that could help us predict them, and fight them. At Crowthorne Forest in Berkshire, site of the most destructive of 2011's fires he meets the young families evac...more

  • What lies beneath

    Apr 11 2012

    Mining is set to return to Cornwall as tin and tungsten prices continue to rise. Plus a rare earth metal called Indium, a key component in smart phones and flat screens, is enticing prospectors back to the mines of the South West. Tin mining has long been just a relic of Cornwall's past; a landscape dotted with old overgrown chimneys being the only evidence of the wheals once found all across the county. The last miners left South Crofty mine, near Redruth in the heart of Cornwall in 1998 when...more

  • Frozen Fish

    Apr 03 2012

    The seas around the Antarctic contain some of our last healthy fish stocks. Tight regulation and vicious weather conditions have kept most trawlers out of the southern waters but the global demand for protein could push more fishermen to sail to the frozen south. For 'Costing the Earth' the chef Gerard Baker travels to South Georgia to hear how scientists hope to maintain the health of the southern oceans in the face of overwhelming odds. Could their experience help the rest of the world secure...more

  • Sands of Time

    Mar 27 2012

    Britain's sand dunes are running out of time. Coastal development and well-meaning conservation plans have locked them in place, frustrating the natural ebbs and flows that attract some of our rarest birds, insects and toads. On the coast of South Wales the conservation group Plantlife has decided to take drastic action. A fleet of bulldozers has appeared at Kenfig Sands, home of the rare fen orchid. The plan is to reconstruct this massive dune system, giving space for the natural processes of...more

  • Outbreak

    Mar 20 2012

    The outbreak of Schmallenberg disease amongst sheep and cattle on British farms has provided a powerful reminder of how novel infections can develop, spread and kill before the authorities have a chance to react. Scientists are still working hard to fully understand the virus and a vaccine is still some way off so what can we do to protect ourselves against future disease outbreaks? And how can we discover what diseases could be heading our way? Tom Heap heads to the Kent marshes in search of ...more

  • The Power of Peat

    Mar 13 2012

    In the fight against climate change the peatlands of the British Isles are one of our greatest assets. A healthy peat bog can absorb more carbon dioxide and store it for longer than forests of a similar size. But we're still destroying our peat at a frightening rate. It's mined for use by gardeners, it's burned in power stations, taken by traditional peat-cutters and ravaged by moorland fires. In 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap meets the people leading the fightback. He takes to the skies above t...more

  • Rebel Without a Car

    Mar 06 2012

    The car was once the symbol of youthful cool. From James Dean through Steve McQueen to Ayrton Senna the car was a symbol of freedom, daring and sexual allure. Today the young of the western world have turned their back on the car. Half of American 17-year-olds have a driver's licence today compared with three-quarters in 1998 and in Europe car sales are down whilst public transport use is up. Is it simply that insurance costs have rocketed for young drivers? Is it because the young remain in e...more

  • Nuclear Power Without the Nasties

    Feb 28 2012

    The Fukushima disaster in Japan brought the nuclear revival to a juddering halt. But what if there was a cheaper, safer way to create nuclear energy? Thorium is an abundant radioactive element that offers the prospect of producing power without the danger of reactor meltdowns or the enormous amounts of long-lived waste left behind by conventional nuclear power plants. The Chinese and Indian governments have advanced plans for thorium reactors whilst French and British scientists are already dev...more

  • Tunnel Beneath the Thames

    Feb 21 2012

    Every time more than two millimetres of rain drops onto the streets of London a combination of raw sewerage and rainwater overwhelms the Victorian sewers and pours into the River Thames, killing fish and disgusting the users of the river. The solution being proposed by Thames Water is an enormous 15 mile long tunnel buried beneath the river as it flows through the city. There's little doubt that it will clean up the river but is the health of a few fish really worth over £4 billion of Londoners...more

  • Bambi Bites Back

    Feb 14 2012

    Bambi has never had it so good. Changes in farming fashion now provide deer with delicious things to eat and warm places to sleep all winter long. The result is a big increase in numbers and a rapid geographical spread, taking our native and introduced species into the most urbanised parts of our islands. In 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap investigates the causes of the deer boom and some of the unexpected impacts. Deer take a heavy toll on young trees, enraging foresters and ruining the prospects...more

  • Adapting Insects

    Feb 07 2012

    In the battle to protect crops and eradicate disease, scientists are turning to ever more ingenious ways to defeat the old enemy - insects. Instead of just going for the kill, they're finding ways of changing behaviour, of recruiting the predator's enemies as our friends. They're using genetic modification and other breeding techniques to ensure that insects breed, but the young don't survive long enough to do any damage. So can we make insects do our bidding and create a world without pesticide...more

  • Bottle Bank Wars

    Jan 31 2012

    Since goldrush days San Francisco has been a magnet for those on the make. But the latest moneymakers aren't interested in striking gold, they're in search of cans and bottles. The city's efforts to boost recycling rates have been so successful that the value of rubbish has spiralled, leading to battles between official, unofficial and downright criminal garbage collectors. San Francisco now recycles 78% of it's trash: paper, bottles, cans, plastics and even food gets recycled or composted. Thi...more

  • Let it Snow!

    Oct 26 2011

    With planes grounded, airports shut and chaos on the roads, last winter was the harshest in a century. Temperatures plummeted to minus 22 degrees in Scotland and the whole of the UK was covered in a thick blanket of snow and ice for weeks. Britain was brought to a standstill. It is estimated that the cold weather cost the economy around £700 million; energy demand rocketed with demand for gas breaking all records; 60,000 miles of roads were gritted; thousands of schools were shut. Weather for...more

  • March of the Pylons

    Oct 19 2011

    Britain's electricity grid needs replacing. Our old power network is approaching obsolesence. That means that there's a real threat of a new army of pylons spreading out across some of our most beautiful landscapes. Since the advent of electricity, power cables have spread out from large, centrally-located coal-fired power stations. In the future we're going to be extracting our power from small sources dotted around the periphery of the country- wind, wave and hydro-electric stations far from ...more

  • Gold of the Conquistadors

    Oct 12 2011

    Five hundred years ago the Spanish Conquistadors enslaved the population of South America in their desperate efforts to squeeze more gold and silver from the mines of Peru, Chile and Mexico. Today the industry is booming again, driven by the global demand for copper and the rising price of precious metals. New technology has made the industry safer for workers but the sensitive environment of the Andes is under threat from the water demands of the mining process.

  • High Speed Hell?

    Oct 05 2011

    What you hear is not necessarily what you're getting. We all have our pet noise hates, but experts tell us that the nuisance caused by noise depends on a number of factors and certainly not just volume. For this week's Costing The Earth, Tom Heap consults the experts and discovers that our response to noise is not only subjective, it is easily influenced by context and even what we can see. Tom also looks at the environmental impact of major construction projects and asks what more could be don...more

  • Waters of Arabia

    Sep 28 2011

    Take a walk through the narrow streets of Sana'a, capital of Yemen and you'll come across the last remaining radish gardens. These small bursts of greenery amidst the desert dust are all that remain of a system that once fed and watered the city. At the height of Arabic science and ingenuity elaborate irrigation systems brought water into the mosques to wash the faithful. The used water was then diverted into large gardens of fabulous fertility. Today Yemen is on the verge of a humanitarian cri...more

  • A Very Large Hole in the Sahara

    Sep 22 2011

    Scientists are looking at novel ways to halt sea-level rise and reverse global warming, but not the way in which Miranda Krestovnikoff is attempting to do her bit on Exmouth Beach... One idea proposed was to flood lowing lying parts of the planet - parts of the Sahara desert in order to accomodate rising sea level caused by global warming and the melting of ice-sheets and glaciers. An idea quickly dismissed by climate scientist Tim Lenton who joins Miranda on the beach as she attempts to empty ...more

  • The Air That I Breathe

    Sep 14 2011

    British air quality consistently breaches European regulations. It's not just London or the other big cities, towns the length and breadth of the country suffer from filthy air. In this week's 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap asks what individuals can do to improve the quality of the air they breathe. The first step is to find out where air quality is at its worst. New techniques, pioneered by Lancaster University, use the pollution-attracting powers of trees to allow scientists to draw up accurate...more

  • Bug Mac and Flies

    Sep 07 2011

    In tonight's Costing The Earth Tom Heap tucks into a portion of locusts and asks if eating insects is good for his diet and better for the planet than a piece of steak. Bugs such as crickets and caterpillars can convert food into protein at a more efficient rate than livestock, and with valuable agricultural land being overgrazed around the world, we could soon be looking for an alternative food supply. One suggestion is that insects have a role to play in feeding the world. They are easy to ra...more

  • Cave Carnage

    Aug 31 2011

    Deep beneath southern Europe there stretches a 500 kilometre long subterranean world. Underground rivers and vast caverns are home to unique and unusual species like the blind salamander and the freshwater sponge. Barely explored, the caves of Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Albania are facing up to a rash of environmental threats. In Costing the Earth Tom Heap will be joining caver and Whitley Award-winning biologist, Jana Bedek to explore the caves, spot the wildlife and witness the dest...more

  • Nature's Medicine Cabinet

    May 25 2011

    Take the venom from a scorpion, the suckers from a starfish and the sting from a bee. You won't create a spell to turn a prince into a frog but you might just find a new anti-asthma spray, a way to prevent the failure of heart by-passes or the answer to drug-resistant bacteria Rapid advances in genetic research are throwing open the medical treasure chest of the natural world. Chemicals that perform a clear function for a plant or animal can be isolated, studied and, in some cases, applied to ...more

  • California Gasping

    May 18 2011

    California has a rapidly expanding population, one of the world's most important agricultural zones and a chronic lack of water. That contradiction has led to 70 years of wrangling punctuated by outbursts of violence and corruption. A new plan is being drawn up which is intended to resolve the outstanding problems once and for all, finding a balance between the needs of farmers, consumers and the environment. Travelling from one of the primary sources of the state's water in the far north to t...more

  • The Real Avatar

    May 11 2011

    James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver are the latest to wade into the battle to stop the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil but it seems celebrity causes are less likely to win ecological battles than they were 20 years ago and with oil and gas prices spiralling big dams are back on the menu everywhere. In the 1990s Sting and the Xingu tribal people succeeded in creating enough worldwide protest to stop the Belo Monte dam being put into construction. Since then the World Bank has stepped away from financing...more

  • Greening the Teens

    May 06 2011

    Take your average teenagers, Trudy (13, loves sports and Twilight), Liam (16, loves computer games) and Craig (19, loves cars). So much of what they enjoy seems to be energy intensive but do this demographic really use more power? How do you get them to care about the environment they are going to inherit? That is the experiment Birmingham University are about to undertake. Can computer games, mobile alerts and social media create a generation of greens or are they already ahead of the curve? Fa...more

  • Cocoa Loco

    Apr 27 2011

    It used to be a treat but now a chocolate bar is one of the cheapest ways to fill up. Chocolate is the unlikely substance at the heart of commodity wars. Cocoa has been reported to be more valuable than gold but will this mean the end of the nation's coffee break. Over-farming has caused problems in chocolate producing countries in Africa and South America. The pressure to produce cheap cocoa has meant farmers have failed to replant and replenish. Soil has become unusable and mature trees are ...more

  • Peak Leak

    Apr 20 2011

    From the atolls of the Pacific to the Thames Estuary, shipwrecks of World War Two litter the oceans. After seventy years rust is starting to take its toll, breaching steel hulls and sending cargoes of munitions, chemicals and oil into the environment. For decades governments have turned a blind eye to the risk, anxious to avoid responsibility for ships sunk in foreign waters. However, as the number of pollution incidents rises it's becoming vital for expertise in underwater salvage to be pooled...more

  • Deepwater Horizon - The Real Damage

    Apr 13 2011

    President Obama described Deepwater Horizon as America's worst environmental disaster. If that was true why have fish numbers in the Gulf massively increased since the blow-out? One year on from the disaster Tom Heap travels through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana in search of the true economic and environmental impact of the spill. Did the political and media reaction cause more damage to the region than the accident itself? He'll also be asking what effect the reaction to the disaster c...more

  • Fields Paved with Gold

    Apr 06 2011

    Birmingham City Council is already fitting solar to 10,000 homes and farmers with more than 35 acres had hoped to earn as much as £50,000 a year harvesting solar energy. But, the government now seems to be backtracking on its promise of large subsidies. Spain's solar industry recently crumbled due to the false economics of government funding and they have a lot more sunshine than the UK. Germany too, which has the world's largest market for solar, has recently had to dramatically decrease promis...more

  • Alien Invaders

    Mar 30 2011

    The threat to wildlife from invasive species is now one of the greatest across the world and it is growing. Killer shrimp are the latest non-native species to be found in a formerly quiet and respectable area of Cambridgeshire. In the UK we have endlessly debated the problem of the grey squirrel and Japanese knotweed but in Spain the invaders are being driven out permanently. Can their plan work and would eradication return native species to abundance or simply create new problems in our ecosyst...more

  • Britain's Nuclear Future

    Mar 23 2011

    Britain is running out of power. Ten new nuclear reactors were supposed to provide the solution. In this week's 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap asks if the events in Japan have dealt a fatal blow to the future of the industry. Tom will be examining the changes in safety regimes that may be provoked by the ongoing disaster. He'll also be asking if the economic case for nuclear has changed and looking ahead to the future supply of uranium. Producer: Alasdair Cross.

  • Carbon Trading

    Mar 16 2011

    It sounded like the perfect answer. Carbon trading could halt global warming, boost 'green' investment in the developing world and make money for city traders. Four years on and Europe's complex system to cut emissions from our factories has comprehensively failed. Despite vast amounts of money and effort being thrown at the scheme the current phase of carbon trading has, according to one report, cut emissions by a third of one per cent. In 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap asks if capitalism's big i...more

  • Fur or Faux?

    Mar 10 2011

    One of the most controversial clothing trends in Britain is the fashion revival of fur. In this week's 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap investigates the claims by the British Fur Trade Association that fur is natural, renewable and a sustainable resource that's kind to the environment .He visits a fur a farm in Copenhagen where farmer Knud takes Tom around his farm that can house up to 24,000 mink. Tom sees for himself the conditions in which the animals are kept, how they're killed and how their pe...more

  • OK Coral

    Mar 02 2011

    90% of the world's coral is under threat, but could this frontline ecosystem also offer signs of hope? Ocean acidification is one of the biggest threats to coral but in Egypt tourism also contributes. Much of the coastal resorts waste is pumped directly into the sea and plastic bags litter the sea bed. Step forward eco divers. Volunteers who clean up reefs on their holidays and not just in the Red Sea. Neptunes Army of Rubbish Cleaners dive in Wales to keep the Pembrokeshire marine environment ...more

  • The Real Eco Warriors?

    Feb 23 2011

    According to senior military figures, by the time a gallon of fuel reaches the frontline in Afghanistan its cost has increased to £250. Add in the cost of escorting those tankers in terms of lives and you have a pretty powerful incentive for the military to cut down its fuel consumption. Top officials in the United States and in the UK are taking this message seriously, investing in research into alternative fuels, portable battlefield power systems and energy reduction strategies. There's alre...more

  • Digging Britain

    Feb 16 2011

    The Staffordshire and Frome Hoards are just two of the most exciting archaeological finds in recent years. Both were found by amateur treasure hunters in the UK using metal detectors. A good news story in these tough times but what is the real affect of legions of unqualified diggers on Britain's heritage and landscape? The growing popularity of metal detectors has meant big finds in the past few years but a new detector has been produced which triples the depth at which small objects can be de...more

  • Arctic Dreams

    Feb 09 2011

    The melting of the Arctic is sparking a goldrush, bringing energy and mineral companies north in search of oil, gas and minerals. To the people of the north it's a confusing time. New business and industry can offer jobs and money but they threaten the pristine environment and seem certain to further dilute the native culture. In this second programme on the future of the melting north Tom Heap visits Arctic Canada to find out more about the impact of development on flora, fauna and the native ...more

  • Into the Arctic

    Feb 02 2011

    In 2010 the Canadian Arctic experienced its warmest year on record. Suddenly the area's resources- oil, gas, iron ore, uranium, even diamonds- seem accessible. From Siberia through Greenland to Canada and Alaska energy and mining companies are descending on the north, eager for a slice of the profits they believe to be waiting for them in the gathering slush. In the first of two programmes Tom Heap is in Arctic Canada to find out more about the new goldrush and to ask if the scramble for resour...more

  • Spring Forwards, Fall Backwards

    Oct 27 2010

    On October 31st we'll all dutifully turn our clocks back by one hour, plunging our evenings into premature darkness. There's mounting evidence that this annual ritual has a real environmental cost. Alice Roberts takes a look at the arguments from the Greenwich Meridian to Cornwall and the Western Isles to find out who could benefit and who might suffer from a change in the way we set our clocks.

  • Grapes of Wrath

    Oct 20 2010

    Wine drinkers face an uncertain future. A decade of great vintages, plentiful supplies and cheap prices could be about to come to a shuddering halt. In the classic wine regions of Europe there are huge concerns over climate change and land use. Burgundy's greatness is based upon the relatively low temperatures that allow its chardonnay and pinot noir grapes to ripen slowly. Gradually rising temperatures in the region are ripening the grapes more quickly, increasing sugar and therefore alcohol l...more

  • Can Lawyers Save The World?

    Oct 13 2010

    Climate change has already claimed its first victims. Displaced people from the Carteret Islands, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Niger delta have already become climate refugees but from whom can they seek refuge or even compensation? Environmental Justice Foundation is calling for legally binding agreements to protect those displaced and there are various legal cases in action that could set a precedent for compensation. 400 Alaskan residents are suing energy companies for creating a pu...more

  • Plastic Pollution

    Oct 06 2010

    What's happening in the Gulf of Mexico is quite literally a drop in the ocean compared to the growing plastic pollution further out in the Pacific and now found closer to home in the North Atlantic. Thirteen years after the world woke up to the threat from plastic polluting our seas and CTE's award-winning expose of the potential threat to our food, we reveal how far from winning the war on plastic pollution it's actually getting worse. Along British beaches UFO's - unidentified floating objec...more