Interview With Liz Bonnin

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We spoke to science and natural history TV presenter, Liz Bonnin, about her upcoming debut in Planet Earth II Live in Concert and the climate change protests.

Recently, SCAN was offered the unique opportunity to speak to Liz Bonnin – a science and natural history TV presenter. With a Masters in wild animal biology, Liz has presented over 40 prime-time programmes including Blue Planet Live, Super Smart Animals, Galapagos and Horizon. 

This interview comes ahead of her debut in Planet Earth II Live in Concert – an immersive experience, where specially-selected footage will be shown in 4K ultra-high-definition on a gigantic LED screen, as the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Freeman, plays the remarkable music by Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea & Jasha Klebe for Bleeding Fingers Music. The arena tour will run from 26th March through to the 4th April 2020.

With her recent landmark BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic, Liz investigated the ocean plastic crisis, with her hard-hitting environmental reporting raising the level of public debate on this important topic. Liz also regularly speaks at and hosts science and natural history events across the country, including the National Science + Engineering Competition, the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, New Scientist Live and Blue Dot Festival.

We spoke to Liz about her upcoming project, the school climate strikes and what she thinks we can do to help the environment.

What was the highlight of working on and preparing for Planet Earth II Live in Concert for you so far?

I’ll tell you what was a highlight – when I got offered the job, that’s for sure. To be involved with something so iconic. Planet Earth II certainly raised the bar when it comes to bringing us ever-closer to wildlife, and it really blew me away as a series. So to be part of a live experience is very special for me. I am super excited. It’s going to be this entirely new sensory experience. You’ll be able to experience the wildlife interactions but on the ginormous 200 m² screens, 4K, ultra HD. It’s going to be mind-blowing. And then you have the music played live by an orchestra, and I think that’s going to raise the bar for how the whole experience is going to stay with us and inspire us and I am really looking forward to being part of an arena where people can experience this together.

What can fans expect from this Live Experience?

I don’t know about you, but there are some sequences that I remember from Planet Earth II that will stay with me forever. For example, there’s this hummingbird who has a beak so long, it can’t clean it’s feathers like the other birds can – and so to see that on a giant screen, and to experience that with a live orchestra, is going to be really special. For me, it’s a celebration of our natural world in a very inclusive way. We’re all going to be in it together, experiencing something very unique and very special. It is going to be a unique experience that is suitable for all the family to celebrate the wonders of the natural world. This kind of documentary reminds us how much of a miracle this planet really is, and this is an opportunity for all to really celebrate it.

Here at Lancaster University, we’ve had quite a big climate protest of our own about a month ago. What is your opinion on the school strikes?

I wholeheartedly support the strikes. I think it’s shameful on adults that children have to make their voices heard in such a way when they should be enjoying their childhoods. However, we’ve reached the tipping point where we all have to make our voices heard, and we’ve all got to be the change the planet needs, and it seems that our global leaders are not taking care of our planet in the way that they should. So I really support this. In response to critics saying that these protests are “irresponsible and dangerous” – how ironic is that? What’s more irresponsible and dangerous – what we’re doing to our planet or our kids choosing to walk out for a few hours? And I love that a lot of teachers and schools are supporting kids who chose to do this. We need to sit up and listen. We haven’t been doing so for generations. Our children are saying “enough”, and I am incredibly proud of them even though I would rather we were taking care of their future, and they didn’t have to worry so much about what is happening to the planet they are living on.

You’ve done a lot of work to do with reducing plastic consumption and encouraging big companies to produce less plastic but what, in your opinion, is the one most important thing an individual can do to limit their carbon footprint?

I have to say that the individuals that run the petrochemical industries should make the decision to reduce production drastically. That is where the plastic buck has to stop. The plastic tap has to be stopped at the source; the projections are that in the next 20 years production will double from 400 million tonnes a year to 800 million tonnes per year of plastic. And that has to stop. People can try to make their voices heard by reducing their plastic consumption habits and bringing back their plastic packaging to supermarkets but, ultimately, the industry needs to do their bit. 

As for individual action – we’re changing our toothbrushes, I’m walking around with my reusable coffee cup and bottle, and that is something everybody can change today. Unfortunately, I am still standing in queues in coffee shops and some people aren’t even thinking about it – they’re still buying single-use coffee cups. So we can all do something in that respect. I also encourage people to write a template letter to their MP calling for a ban on exports of our dirty plastic or a full ban of single-use plastic, like Costa Rica is going to implement by 2021. That is a very powerful way to make your voice heard as an individual. 

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