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'I find climate change scary and very frightening and there are times when I think we're doomed'

Springwatch's Michaela Strachan talks with Gabrielle Fagan about greener living, seeing young people becoming eco warriors and surviving breast cancer

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Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan now lives in Cape Town

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan now lives in Cape Town

PA

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan now lives in Cape Town

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan now lives in Cape Town

PA

Springwatch presenter Michaela Strachan now lives in Cape Town

Catching up with Michaela Strachan before the pandemic hit, she's her typically bright, engaging self as she chats about life, work, motherhood - and everything in-between.

But there is one topic the Springwatch presenter admits can reduce her to uncharacteristic despair - climate change.

"I've been talking about my concern for the environment for years, but last year was a serious wake-up call when research showed how much the climate had changed. Even I was shocked," says Strachan (53), who's speaking on behalf of Money Expert's campaign to encourage more parents to look for a sustainable energy supplier.

"I find it scary and very frightening and there are times when I think we're doomed. But I have to pull myself out of that because I realise I have a voice that I can use, to help keep people positive and show them how change. We can't lose hope," Surrey-born Strachan adds.

"It's like a light switch went on in 2019, and we had Greta Thunberg who is incredible and so timely, then Extinction Rebellion - I think we need to give hope to people to change. Changing an energy provider to one which uses renewable green energy is a start."

She has witnessed changes in the countryside first-hand. "When we film the 'Watch' programmes in the Cairngorms [in Scotland], we're noticing how hard it to see wildlife these days because there's less of it, so much habitat has been lost, farmland birds are in dramatic decline. It's very worrying.

Jason Smith, CEO of Money Expert, which Strachan has teamed up with on the campaign, points out that: "Misconceptions about the cost of green energy are getting in the way of people taking steps that are both purse-friendly and planet-friendly. With high energy bills ahead, now's a great time to listen to your kids, and explore whether there's a better deal available from a renewable energy supplier."

Green change is being driven by children, Money Expert's research reveals. Three-quarters of parents have noticed their children becoming more vocal about protecting the environment and families have made greener choices as a consequence.

Strachan takes advice from her own son, Ollie (14). "It's so inspiring to see that children are leading the way, taking action, encouraging their parents to change and becoming future eco warriors," she says.

"Ollie comes to me with all sorts of facts and figures about what's going on and how to make changes, which he and his mates find on social media, which is brilliant. Recently he got me to change to buying rechargeable batteries," Strachan adds proudly. "He's a very independent boy, I think because I spend time away working. It's good for him because I think I could be quite a helicopter mother. I'm a bit of a control freak and it's probably done him the world of good not having me there all the time!"

Strachan and her partner, cameraman Nick Chevallier, and Ollie live in Cape Town, South Africa, in an energy-efficient home.

"We're off the grid with water, we've got solar panels and I'm fanatical about not using single-use plastics. My walks on the beach often end up with me spending more time picking up litter because I can't stand it," Strachan shares. "I can't remember the last time I used a supermarket bag and I always have an eco-coffee cup, straw and fork in my bag wherever I go.

"Lots of people have turned to those little changes and I think it's a shame the media don't point out what we're achieving, rather than always pointing out what we're not doing. It can make people feel disheartened."

She admits she feels uncomfortable about the number of flights she takes to commute from her home to work in the UK.

"Of course, there are things that make us feel hypocritical, and one of the things I do is fly," she says. "At the moment, I don't have an alternative, but I do visit the World Land Trust where every time I fly, I can offset my carbon footprint. It's not the answer, it's a sticking plaster, but at least it's something."

Strachan seems unfazed by her packed schedule - juggling a busy career and family life, as well as working on green campaigns. She's been clear of breast cancer for more than five years now, after being diagnosed in 2014 and having a double mastectomy.

"This is such a positive time for me. I'm fit and healthy and enjoying life," she declares happily.

"I was diagnosed early so I had a very lucky escape. I've very much compartmentalised the experience in my mind," she continues.

"When I first got cancer, I wondered if there was ever going to be a time when I stopped thinking about it. Now I actually forget I've been through it half the time. I've got friends going through it, and I hope I'm a source of hope, encouragement and inspiration."

The experience changed her perspective on life.

"Nowadays, I live in the moment more and where once I wanted big things to make me happy, now I appreciate small things, like just sitting on a beach watching my partner and son play cricket, or walking and being out in nature," she confides.

She keeps fit by running up and down the mountains surrounding Cape Town. "I also have a dog and he's great for de-stressing me. Seeing him running joyfully towards me when I come home just melts my tension away, and stroking him is calming if I'm feeling frustrated or irritable about something."

She's sanguine about ageing and believes we should embrace getting older, rather than fight it.

"Ageing and dying happens to all of us, so there's no point stressing over it. Anyway, in my head, I feel 40. I can't ever see myself having Botox or plastic surgery, although never say never, but I'd rather help myself by doing things in a natural way, like looking after my skin and staying fit."

She describes herself as "a pretty philosophical, optimistic person" and believes that's helped her through tough times.

"I realise you can make all the plans you want, but you may be sent off course by life and circumstances outside your control," says Strachan. "All you can do is be open to change and adapt to it.

"There'll be tough times, but hopefully they'll come to an end, and you have to just suck it up and wait for a turning point. It usually comes."

Visit MoneyExpert.com to find out more about their campaign to make Britain greener and suppliers who offer renewable energy

Belfast Telegraph