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Science
COUNTRY OF OUR TIME
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Can 'joined-up' thinking bring back Britain’s missing wildlife?

Mondays 9.00-9.30pm 12 to 26 August 2002

Enviromentalist Chris Baines presents a personal view of a landscape fit to live in. In three programmes, he explores how we can restore our lost biodiversity and reap our own benefits by taking a 'joined-up' view of conservation.

Parks, floods and countryside

1. Healthy Urban Living

Green surroundings and closer daily contact with nature bring considerable health benefits. The urban forest helps to filter out pollution and improve the air we breathe, whilst its shade can help to reduce the risk of skin cancer. As little as three minutes in leafy green surroundings can deliver measurable stress relief worth millions to the National Health Service, whilst hospital patients with a view of trees and greenery recover more rapidly and cope more effectively with pain. Access to safe parks, leafy footpaths and green cycleways encourages gentle exercise, with positive implications for the health of the nation. This programme pulls together evidence from experts in the USA and the UK, to show that wildlife benefits public health. By valuing greenspace as an aid to healthy living - especially in the towns and cities where so many people live and work - Chris argues that we can justify much more wildlife close to home.
Listen again to Programme 1 Listen again to Programme 1

2. Wise Use of Water

Tackling flooding with heavy engineering doesn’t solve the problem - it just funnels it on to somewhere else. As global climate change delivers more extreme weather patterns - summer droughts and torrential rainstorms - we need to find a more sustainable way of managing water. We need to use the rural countryside to control flooding in the towns. More absorbent bogs and heather moorland in the hills, more broadleaved woodland on the slopes, and wetlands and water meadows in the valleys can ensure the flood water flows down the rivers much more slowly. As a bonus, working with the natural systems helps to filter out pollution and will improve the reliability of drinking water.

By managing much more of our rural countryside for improved water quality and flood control, we will also provide increased habitat for many of our favourite plants and animals, whilst also making the landscape more enjoyable for people.

Listen again to Programme 2 Listen again to Programme 2

3. Food with a Future

Since World War II the push for ‘cheap’ industrialised food production has wiped out wildlife and resulted in an escalating range of problems which has cost the nation £billions in the past few years. Foot-and-mouth disease, Mad Cow disease, chemical pollution and a host of other crises have called rural land management into serious question. For all that time, most farmers have been fighting nature - but there is another way. The countryside must still depend on farmers, who will need to keep on growing food, but in a crowded country such as this the rural landscape should also deliver many other benefits. By working in harmony with natural systems, focusing on local food supply and adding value to make home-grown food more special, it is clearly possible to restore the self-esteem of farmers, build a more robust rural economy, and give consumers what they really want. We can also bring back Britain’s missing wildlife to the farming countryside.

Listen again to Programme 3 Listen again to Programme 3

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