30 years in conservation: Wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan on the power we hold right now

Michaela Strachan

Wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan is listing the A-listers – orangutans, cloudy leopards, pygmy elephants – whose habitats continue to be destructed for Palm Oil, more than a decade after her BBC documentary Organutan Diary first brought the issue to light.

Globally, we’re losing an area of rainforest the size of London every single week. Or to put it in more topical terms, an area the size of football pitch is being razed every two seconds.

This decade has seen a resurgence of deforestation, also due to cattle ranching and intensive meat production.

Around 60% of all the greenhouse gases we emit are soaked up by the forest and the ocean, so this means we’re destroying one of the most important tools for tackling climate change.

Plus, trees stabilise soil. Uprooting trees leads to mudslides and flooding, to name only the most headline-grabbing issues this causes.

“When you see the devastation, whole villages and cities washed away, nobody can watch that and say it’s not happening,” says Strachan.

“If you’ve been watching series such as My Planet with Sir David Attenborough, so much of the destruction has been caused in the last 50 years. That’s huge amounts of damage that have been done in our lifetimes.”

Some of the animals Micheala Strachan, WWF and Old Mout Cider are working to protect 

This means that we’re the first generation that doesn’t have an excuse – we can’t say “we didn’t know”.

It also means we’re the last generation that can actually do anything about reversing the damage of climate change.

It’s a huge responsibility. But with it comes great power.

The power of the individual

“The campaigns that have happened recently show how much power we have – we have a voice. Not everyone is a campaigner, but it is creating the will for change.

“There is so much people can do individually. It’s about simple steps. It’s inexcusable now to be using plastic bags now every time you do a shop. Plastic straws are a tiny thing but collectively everyone changed their perception towards them. Coffee cups are next.

Eat less meat – that’s a big one we can all do. Just think about how much rainforest and habitat we’re losing because of the meat industry.”

The power of collective action

“When I was younger the whole conversation was about the hole in the Ozone Layer and look how we turned that around. The hole has diminished in size dramatically because there was a global decision to make that happen. I think we have to really hang onto that and remain hopeful.”

The power of hope

“Sometimes, you do lose hope. Sometimes, I feel we’ve been banging our heads against a wall about these issues for so long and nothing seems to be changing. I remember coming home from filming Orangutan Diary in Borneo and feeling quite depressed because I couldn’t see how we were going to turn this around.

“What makes now a very exciting time is the fact that people are becoming so aware – it’s not just the conservationists and the ‘greenies’. Everyone is sitting up and taking notice. Everyone wants to get involved.

“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had Extinction Rebellion protests, which had got everybody talking about climate change problems. We’ve got the amazing Greta Thunberg who has got the kids onboard. Sir David Attenborough, at the age of 93, is still talking about saving the planet – that’s so inspirational. Programmes on the TV have completely shifted to making people aware. Media is shifting.”

The power of now

“The state of the planet is in utter crisis, so now is the time to turn that hopeless feeling everyone has into hope. We’re a very intelligent species, we’re good at acting in a crisis. We don’t want to get to the point where there’s no turning back. At the moment we still have a chance to turn this around.”


Michaela Strachan is supporting a partnership with Old Mout Cider and WWF to save half a million acres of protected rainforest in the Amazon. Stats in this article are quoted from an interview with Michaela Strachan and WWF.

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