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Chris Packham. Photo courtesy 2020VISION

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My Green Life: An interview with Chris Packham

by Sharon Garfinkel

Sharon Garfinkel quizzes the TV naturalist on his diet, political views, and being fodder for mosquitos........

Concern for the environment should always transcend party politics

What does the word ‘environment' conjure up to you?

It's a radiating scale of where I am in space and time. The environment is very often packaged - it certainly was when I was at school. The environment was nothing to do with me. It was the rainforest. It was the Antarctic waste. It was all of these places that were confined and idealised. But for me the environment is where we live. The most important part is our own community: our home, our neighbourhood, our school, our workplace and where we live.

A day in the country, or a day on the beach?

Oh, country, without a shadow of a doubt. I can't stand beaches. Should I tell you why I don't like beaches? Water, sand and salt - they erode all the things I like most, which includes fabrics, photographic equipment, things like that.

A day in the country, or a day in the office?

A day in the country - although in a way the country is my office on many occasions!

Do you eat organic foods?

I do. I'm not fortunate enough to constantly shop for organic food, but when I have a choice I eat organic. I make a lot of active decisions about what I eat. I've given up eating tuna. I don't eat meat. I don't eat cod. I have a great debate about whether I should eat farmed or wild salmon, because wild salmon are under tremendous pressure and farmed salmon can do no end of damage to the environment. That's a debate that I constantly play out with myself.

Do you get scared of any insects or animals you encounter on your trips?

No, never. Only humans! They're the only scary species for me. I love life. I love all life, without any exception, so if a mosquito is biting me, even in a malarial zone, very often I don't take the tablets. People laugh at me because I dislodge the mosquito without killing it and send it on its way. The creature is there because it has a job to do in that community. I've moved into that community. I'm a resource and I don't mind being a resource. Ultimately I will become the simplest resource, because my body will rot down and will become something else. I like that.

Which political party do you think does the most for the environment?

There's a question, isn't it? I'd like to say whichever party is governing. What I would have hoped to witness in my voting life is a steady progress of all the political parties that have had the opportunity to govern, making sound environmental decisions. What I have actually witnessed is an increasing awareness amongst politicians of an environmental agenda.

I don't think the environment is at the right place on the agenda yet. But, as we progress and have younger politicians who learn more about the importance of the environment, hopefully it will be more embedded in their psyche. Then we will gradually see the environment attaining the importance it needs on the political agenda.

I would be very keen to work with any political party to ensure we constantly inform and educate. But I would be a lot more comfortable if a lot of environmental issues were apolitical. Climate change is not a political issue. It's a global, real issue. If we can take environmental issues out of the political agenda and not worry about terms or duration of office, our ability to deal with some of the bigger of these issues will be a lot easier.
Concern for the environment should always transcend party politics.

Who are your environmental heroes?

I don't think there's enough activism in the environmental movement at the moment. I remember the days when people like David Bellamy tied themselves to trees in Tasmania. Everyone thinks that's a bit too freaky these days and many don't have the courage to do that kind of protest. Everyone is scared of getting arrested. I nearly got arrested the other day for feeding the birds! That would have been on my CV faster than anything. It was seagulls and apparently they're a nuisance although I don't see it that way.

I like the activists of the early days - passive; I'm not into violence. It's about generating awareness to get people to engage with their environment so they love it enough to want to protect it.

What does Nature teach you?

Nature teaches me that if it weren't for us, the world would be a dynamically perfect place.

Sharon Garfinkel is PR Manager for The Resurgence Trust.



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