I’m working on chapters of an e-book on themes of population, resources and environmental change. The idea is to create a media-rich account of how we came to think about global environmental change and resource issues in the way we do today, and to consider particularly the role of broadcasting within that. There are moments of undiluted fun and fascination as, for example, a horn rimmed prof shares with the audience his vision of the future. In one episode of The Population Problem, broadcast in 1967, an expert suggests that on account of population growth we will in future all have to live underground, or in underwater cities, so that all productive land and water can be put to work using sunlight to produce food.
‘Is there an even more drastic stage?’ asks the deadpan presenter Derek Cooper. ‘Yes’ replies Professor J.H.Fremlin. ‘If we begin to synthesise our food chemically… Using as our raw materials mainly human excreta with a little bit of addition of assorted minerals. I don’t think we’d need to feed the bodies back in. I think we could do without that. Then one could go on producing as much food as we needed for as far as one can see’. Scrummy.
As an aside – it was wonderful to hear Cooper’s fledgling broadcasting voice. With another three decades of gentle maturing it turned into one of the most beautiful sounds on the radio during his spell as creator and presenter of the brilliant Radio 4 show, The Food Programme. Others in my medals table include Alex Kirby, former presenter of Costing the Earth and the sadly deceased Nick Clarke. OK not an original choice, but Jenni Murray is going to be high in the rankings. And now I’ve started, surely Cerys Matthews, Mara Carlyle and Sara Mohr-Pietsch are going to be pressing for places. But these latter are all gathering and presenting music. I do think its harder to make people want to tune into difficult topics, and somehow voice matters in all that.