Like it or not, we’re facing a pivotal moment in Earth’s history.

Due to environmental impact and global warming, the future of our precious ecosystems hangs in the balance. In a bid to better understand the impact to our environment, BBC Earth has orchestrated a visionary project titled Changing Planet and they’ve roped in experts like British naturalist, Steve Backshall to help see it through.

This ambitious series meets local eyewitnesses at six vulnerable locations – Iceland, the Amazon, California, Kenya, the Maldives and Cambodia – and records the changes they are experiencing. It also meets the scientists, indigenous groups, and conservationists fighting to save these iconic places for the future. Returning every year for seven years, Changing Planet reveals each location’s battle and asks if we are doing enough to save our planet from irreversible change.

Charting Evolving Natural Landscapes

Changing Planet Steve Backshall
Steve Backshall will highlight issues that are plaguing surrounding environments in the Maldives 

Backshall and several other experts will help present the data and findings through Changing Planet.   The six BBC Earth presenters will each visit a habitat and return over 7 years to chart the ecological issues threatening the planet while also documenting the stories and projects of scientists and local conservationists fighting to make a difference.

Premiering on 31 July, Changing Planet features the first year and pivotal starting point of this project. It will feature presenters Steve Backshall in Maldives, Chris Packham in Iceland, Ella Al-Shamahi in Cambodia, Ade Adepitan in Kenya, Gordon Buchanan in Brazil and Liz Bonnin in California.

For audiences, the series will offer a unique insight to the natural world. For instance, with Backshall as a guide, Changing Planet will showcase ‘Manta wildlife’ in action using the world’s first contactless underwater handheld ultrasound scanner used on pregnant Manta Rays in the Maldives.

Backshall will also reveal how coral reefs act as the living shields for islands of the Maldives and how innovative methods are being used to develop these precious ecosystem into the wild. Most interestingly, it will also show how rapid urbanisation has left 40% of population without ready access to a beach front. This means despite living on Maldives, generation of kids have less connection to the oceans leaving more local children without the knowledge to know how to even swim.

Ahead of the show’s premiere, the British naturalist unveils more about his involvement with BBC Earth for the series and why its more important than ever to make a positive change for the environment for the sake of our planet’s future.

What do you believe is so captivating about Changing Planet?

Manta Rays in Maldives

For me, I think one of the most important things is change over time. All very well talking about what we can see in the here and now but being able to charge change over a period of many years is so much more visceral and so much more visual.

You’re able to see change from one year to the next how an environment changes for the better or the worst. I always wished that way back when I started off making conservation programmes about 20 years ago, that I had managed to track the progress of some of the stories we did back then because it would be so powerful and such an important record of the way that our environments are changing.

We can do all the scientific papers that we want, we can have all the statistics and the evidence that the scientists need but as members of the public, we respond most dramatically to things that we can see and touch and feel and that’s where I think that Our Changing Planet has the opportunity to do something really special.

Were there any standout or memorable sequences for you whilst filming?

Absolutely yes. Free diving alongside a squadron, a vortex of maybe 50 manta rays swirling around me like giant flying carpets is one of the most dazzling sights in the natural world. To be able to do this alongside scientists who are spending so much of their private lives finding out things about the way that they migrate, the way that they travel, the things they do, the things they consume and their potential future made it all the more exciting.

That was in the Indian Ocean.

What positive changes are you anticipating taking place each year?

Steve Backshall watching local Maldivian children snorkel for the first time

We were working with a group of scientists who were charting both the changes on the reef due to climate change, due to coral bleaching but also in coral restoration as well. The projects they were getting involved with were really in their infancy as well, they are really just getting started so the sky’s the limit really.

These are projects that we would expect to be maturing within the lifespan of this series, over the next 7 years, so we will see the corals that we for all intents and purposes allowed to be given birth to there in the Indian Ocean of our first shoot, we will see them as mature corals in 4-5 years times.

What do you hope viewers will take away from watching Changing Planet?

More than anything, I really hope they will take away positivity and hope. I hope they will take away some ways that they can get involved with and they can be a part of positive change. In order to be invested in conservation, you need to feel like there is a positive end game, that there is a successful conclusion that we can all come to together and that I think this series is doing and achieving really well.

Changing Planet premieres Sunday, 31st July at 9:00pm, on StarHub channel 407, Singtel channel 203 and BBC Player.

(Images: BBC Studios)

written by.
Richard Augustin
Former chef turned writer; Richard has tip-toed around the publishing industry for two decades. When not busy chasing deadlines, you can still find him experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.

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