Costing the Earth podkast

Landfill Legacy

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The UK has dramatically reduced the amount of waste which goes into landfill over the last 25 years, but there are are still decades worth of rubbish underground, buried by generations gone by. Until the 1970s there were almost no rules about what could be put into landfill and very few records were kept before the 1980s, so no-one really knows what's lurking underground. The 1990s saw a change of attitude, with the EU landfill directive and the introduction in the UK of the landfill tax. But coastal erosion means that some our old landfill sites are now disgorging their contents, and leaking rubbish from half a century ago back into the environment. Tom Heap visits a site on the Thames estuary, and sees bin bags, old tyres, broken glass, corroded batteries and bits of asbestos spilling out onto the shore. With more than a thousand UK landfill sites now believed to be at risk from erosion or flooding, Tom learns that the ghosts of our old disposal habits are coming back to haunt us - and asks what can be done about it. Producer: Emma Campbell

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    Six Months on St Kilda


    Abandoned by its entire population in 1930, St Kilda has been uninhabited ever since. What's it like to spend six months with the birds on one of Britain's most isolated islands? Conor McKinney is a naturalist and broadcaster with what might be- depending on your personality- either the best job in the world or the worst. St Kilda is seriously isolated- it’s an archipelago of islands over one hundred miles west of the Scottish mainland and 40 miles of rough Atlantic waves away from the nearest pub or shop. That isolation means that it has a unique environment. It’s packed with rare and endemic wildlife and the owners of the island- the National Trust for Scotland- want to keep it that way. The Ministry of Defence has a construction project on the main island of Hirta and it’s Conor's job to make sure that the boats and builders that will be coming and going don’t bring unwanted guests with them- things like sea squirts, Japanese knotweed or- worst of all- the rats that would very quickly decimate the extraordinary seabirds of St Kilda. Producer: Alasdair Cross
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    Earthshot: The Winners


    Taking inspiration from President Kennedy’s Moonshot which united people around a goal to put man on the moon and spurred the development of new technology in the 1960s, the Earthshot Prize is centred around five simple but ambitious goals for our planet. Chhavi Sachdev announces the winners of the inaugural prize and discusses how smart ideas from individual innovators and small companies can influence the upcoming climate debate at COP26 in Glasgow. Prizes like this prove that there are clever ideas being developed to ease our pressure on the environment, but how can those ideas be harnessed and scaled up to make a big difference globally? Chhavi is joined by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and by Juliet Davenport, founder of the green power company Good Energy, to discuss the best ways to make smart ideas part of the solution to the planet's biggest problems. Producer: Alasdair Cross
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  • Costing the Earth podkast

    Earthshot: More Fresh Ideas for the Environment


    Taking inspiration from President Kennedy’s Moonshot which united people around a goal to put man on the moon and spurred the development of new technology in the 1960s, the Earthshot Prize is centred around five simple but ambitious goals for our planet. Chhavi Sachdev profiles more of the prize nominees from all around the world. This week Chhavi concentrates on the innovators working to reduce waste, provide clean water and develop clean energy solutions for communities without access to power. Japan is notoriously prone to natural disaster which makes it a perfect testing ground for disaster-management solutions. The Wota Box arose from the urgent need for clean water in locations hit by earthquakes or tsunamis. Using the latest techniques in artificial intelligence it controls a series of filters to remove pollutants and provide essential washing facilities where they're needed most. In Nigeria, Olugbenga Olubanjohas invented a portable battery which can be rented from a vending machine to power mobile phone chargers and laptops, bringing modern communication options to some of the poorest areas of Africa. Producer: Julian Siddle
  • Costing the Earth podkast

    Earthshot: Fresh Ideas For the Environment


    Taking inspiration from President Kennedy’s Moonshot which united people around a goal to put man on the moon and spurred the development of new technology in the 1960s, the Earthshot Prize is centred around five simple but ambitious goals for our planet. Over the next three editions of Costing the Earth, Chhavi Sachdev meets the prize nominees from all around the world. This week Chhavi concentrates on the innovators working to protect nature on land and in the oceans and meets those striving to improve the air quality of our cities. Vinisha Umashankar, an Indian schoolgirl, reveals her solar powered ironing cart which cuts pollution in her neighbourhood and the Living Seawalls team show off their beautifully carved additions to Sydney Harbour- works of art which provide marine life with a place to hide, feed and breed on the previously sterile sea walls of the harbour. Producer: Julian Siddle Photo: Life returns to Sydney Harbour- courtesy of Leah Wood, Living Seawalls project
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    Qasa’s Farm - Building Resilience in Bangladesh


    Qasa Alom has always been told that his family farm in Sylhet, Bangladesh is his heritage. His parents have spent their time and money trying to maintain the estate and his father has always hoped Qasa would take on some of the strain. Born in Britain, Qasa had other ideas about how he wanted to spend his time but he now faces a new challenge; how to protect his family’s roots from climate change. Bangladesh’s low elevation and high population density make it one of the most vulnerable countries as climate change accelerates extreme weather conditions such as heat and floods and sea-levels rise. Qasa’s village has always faced flooding but the future looks more unpredictable. Now as Qasa considers his future commitment to the farm he finds a country that is battling extremes but also finding solutions. Early weather warning systems which incorporate local knowledge and using community resolve to insure everyone gets to safety are one example. Changing crops, farming shellfish and growing jute to build up soil naturally are also being trialled and, most importantly, migration by climate refugees is being planned for. As a leader in climate adaptation Bangladesh is leading the world but will it be enough to keep Qasa committed to helping to maintain his family’s way of life here?
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    Britain's Changing Flowers


    Naturalist and broadcaster Mike Dilger takes to the road to map the impact that global warming is having on Britain's plants and flowers. From the highest peaks of the Highlands to the lowest points of the East Anglian Brecklands our flowers are adapting to the changing seasons, but how many will survive and thrive into the future? Producer: Alasdair Cross
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    Beaver Town


    Adrian has a big idea. His home of Braunton, a village in North Devon, has a problem with flooding. Over the last decade he has seen it get worse. The village flooded badly in 2012 just after a million pound flood defence scheme was completed, and there was more flooding in 2016. Braunton has since had those defences upgraded, but more work is needed further up the valley. Instead of more expensive schemes, Adrian has an alternative solution - bringing back beavers to do the work for them. Beavers are nature’s engineers, their dams prevent flooding by holding water upstream and slowing the flow in rivers, while simultaneously creating new wetland habitats for species of insects, amphibians, birds, fish and plants to flourish in. These industrious rodents were hunted to extinction in Britain about 400 years ago, and are now beginning to make a comeback. A record number of beavers will be released by the Wildlife Trusts this year, but so far pretty much all licensed beaver reintroductions have been on individual private estates or within fenced enclosures. What Adrian is proposing would be the first community-led reintroduction of beavers on a landscape scale, and if successful in gaining permission, the project could provide a model for others. Working together with the Beaver Trust, Adrian now has nearly 50 local landowners on board and the project is gaining momentum. However there are many obstacles to overcome, not least that not everyone is in favour of beavers flooding their land. We visit Braunton as it begins its beaver journey and hear what can be learnt about managing the species from the River Otter Beaver Trial in South Devon, and from Scotland where there is a wild population in Tayside causing problems for farming. Can we move beyond keeping beavers in enclosures and learn to live alongside them? Presented by Lindsey Chapman and produced by Sophie Anton
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    Government action on climate change is sluggish. Could rich individuals cut through red tape and fund measures to cool the planet from their own pockets? And should they be allowed? Presenter/producer: Jolyon Jenkins
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    New Grid for the New Age


    How will Britain's power system need to change for a zero carbon world? Tom Heap investigates. Producer: Alasdair Cross
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    The South Australian Miracle


    Australia's government is famous for its lack of interest in climate change. Despite increasing problems from bushfires and droughts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Liberal-led coalition government continue to promote coal-mining and dodge efforts to reduce the country's carbon emissions. It's all the more extraordinary then that one Australian state, governed by Mr Morrison's party is streets ahead of most of the world in its conversion to renewable energy. Peter Hadfield reports from Adelaide on the South Australian miracle. Producer: Alasdair Cross

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