In an eagerly anticipated move, BBC Radio 4 is set to launch ‘Rare Earth,’ a groundbreaking weekly podcast and radio show exploring major environmental and natural world stories. Scheduled to debut in early 2024, the hour-long program promises a fresh perspective on pressing issues concerning humanity and its relationship with the environment.

Presented by renowned BBC environmental journalist and Countryfile reporter Tom Heap, alongside physicist and author Helen Czerski, ‘Rare Earth’ aims to navigate the intricate interplay between humanity and the natural world. The series will delve into natural history, dissect urgent environmental concerns, and incorporate elements of history, philosophy, and cutting-edge scientific developments to provide insights into the current state and future trajectory of our planet.

Running throughout the year, each episode will feature Tom and Helen tackling a central question, complemented by expert studio guests and original reporting from around the globe. The series will strike a balance between addressing significant challenges, such as rising temperatures and wildlife decline, and celebrating success stories and innovative solutions to foster planetary well-being.

The inaugural episode, airing on Friday, January 19, will address the crucial question of how to revive nature from the brink. Tom and Helen will explore whether to let nature reclaim vast expanses of countryside on its own terms or to engage in strategic interventions to manage species and habitats. Tom’s on-the-ground reporting includes encounters with a bison herd in Kent contributing to woodland rewilding and a visit to Norfolk’s Holkham Estate, a participant in the government’s Landscape Recovery pilot project.

In subsequent episodes, ‘Rare Earth’ will investigate the profound impact of oceans on the planet’s temperature. Helen, who recently participated in a scientific expedition to the Labrador Sea, will share early results and discuss the effects of warming waters and changing currents on the oceans’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide and oxygen from the air.

Tom Heap says: “We’ll explore all the fascinating stories of our relationship with the natural world: the vital challenge of our age. From the revelation of wildlife’s wonders to the hot button topics of climate and conservation while still finding time to delve in to the philosophy of the Anthropocene. I’ve been covering the environment as a journalist for over 25 years and Helen is a mine of knowledge so I’m sure our different approaches will be illuminating and even sparky.”

Helen Czerski says: “Human civilisation faces a very big question: how do we build a healthy, just human society that works with the natural world, rather than against it? We’ll explore the wide range of topics that we need to consider, all fascinating and often surprising, as well as how we got to this point, and how we think about living on Planet Earth. Tom and I come at this from different perspectives – a journalist and a research scientist – and I’m excited about the depth of exploration that will allow.”

Director of Speech Audio and Controller of BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra, Mohit Bakaya says: “Rare Earth is a landmark programme coming to BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds. It will aim to explore our relationship with the natural world, and how we might reimagine it at a crucial time for our planet. Tom, Helen and guests will bring their huge expertise to investigate the latest threats and potential solutions relating to climate change, but also explore and delight in the constant wonder of our planet. Rare Earth will be essential listening as we enter the next phase of the climate crisis.”