I listen to the Today programme a lot – I’m awake at those hours and I’m interested in politics and current affairs. I sometimes wince at the tone and content of their environmental coverage. If this programme had the same standards of challenge and enquiry on environmental matters as it does on sometimes trvial events in the Westminster village then it would be so much better. At least it would for me.
But sometimes you need the environment – not for sustenance, not for mental health but to fill up your programme on election day when you can’t talk about politics. And so we had two items on Thursday, both of which interested me. One was about insect numbers and featured the incomparable Matt Shardlow and the other featured Great Tits and featured the incomparable Wytham Woods on the edge of Oxford.
Matt got a very generous 5 minutes (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0016xtw, 52-57mins) to describe the study, its results and its significance. He did well with a mixture of facts and explanation. It’s important stuff and, as he said, rather mirrors the results of a (let’s admit it) much more rigorous (but let’s point out) rather serendipitous study in Germany. I liked the fact that Buglife had found a way to go back to the similar study that the RSPB had carried out in 2007 with a splatometer – I wish we’d carried on with that method but we didn’t. Probably my fault!
The second piece was a strange celebration of the Wytham Great Tit study to which I was a tiny contributor over 40 years ago. In that piece, which also got its very generous 5 minutes, (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0016xtw, 2h:45- 2h:50mins) the message seemed to be that spring had got three weeks earlier and that the Great Tits were coping fine with climate change. That is indeed true, as I understand the science. It was great, for me at least, to hear the voice of Prof Chris Perrins FRS who has led much of the Wytham study, and much else besides, for many decades. By the way, he’ll be 87 on Wednesday and he sounded pretty good for it. But this piece failed to take the rather obvious opportunity of contrasting how well Great Tits had coped with the seasons shifting with how badly a whole load of other insectivorous woodland species have coped.
The ‘Great Tits are fine with shifting seasons’ study was mentioned on each of the news bulletins between 6am and 9am yet the ‘Insects are disappearing’ study just got its slot before most of the world had tuned in. This struck me as being the wrong way round.
Should we feel privileged to have heard about nature twice in the same day on Today? If so, roll on the next election day. I wish Today could raise its game on the environment.[registration_form]