Chris Packham: 'My dream is that we can all live together on this planet'
Chris Packham is feeling optimistic about the future, for a change. He discusses the return of Blue Planet Live to BBC One with Gemma Dunn
The impact of Blue Planet II has been astonishing. The BBC One series - a follow-up to David Attenborough's 2001 The Blue Planet - has reached over 37 million people in the UK since its 2017 inception, with a huge 0.75 billion viewers worldwide having tuned in to at least one episode.
In fact, the documentary, which highlighted the damage single-use plastic is having on the environment, had such an effect the broadcaster went on to launch a multi-platform initiative - termed "Plastic Watch" - to spur on change.
One year on and the channel's dedication has not wavered, as its Natural History Unit welcomes a further spell of programming, starting with spin-off shows Blue Planet Live and Blue Planet UK.
While Blue Planet Live, presented by Chris Packham, Liz Bonnin and Steve Backshall, will be broadcast across the globe, Blue Planet UK, presented mainly by Gillian Burke and Steve Brown, with contributions from Packham, will investigate and challenge what's happening on our own shores.
It's a commendable effort to tackle such significant subjects, remarks Packham (57). "The programmes will still be celebratory. From my point of view, if you want people to help, you've got to get them to engage with the subject."
During the week-long run of Blue Planet Live, Southampton-born Packham will celebrate the diverse wildlife living in the seas around us, as the naturalist pairs up with scientists at the world's biggest whale nursery in Mexico. "I am heading to Baja California, Sea of Cortez, which between December and April is the world's primary birthing site for many of the whale species," he details.
"We're going to be moving down the peninsula, looking at different species, trying to encounter them and look at some of the problems they face."
Meanwhile, Blue Planet UK will witness everything from Brown revealing how plastic rubbish found on beaches is being turned into kayaks that clean up our seas, to Burke oyster fishing in Cornwall and Packham meeting author Philip Hoare, who thinks we should all take a daily dip in the sea.
But it's the younger audience that's really taking note, Packham insists.
"The recent schools' climate strike is indicating that young people are fed up with the pace of change," he begins. "They are realising they need to take matters into their own hands - and I find that tremendously exciting."
And the older generation?
"Well, vote them out!" Packham quips. "And I'm not talking party politics, I'm talking that generation of people who basically don't understand the issues nor the urgency to take action upon them.
"We've got a new generation of dynamic, well-informed, determined young people and this is the sea-change, the shift, because then our generation can vote for people who we can trust to make decisions that need to be made, and do it quickly.
"It's no fault of our politicians - think back 25 years ago, they didn't need to know anything about climate change, because it wasn't such a big issue. Now, they do."
Next Packham - never one to shy away from potential debate - will present a one-off film that will explore the perils of human population growth.
The BBC Two show, which will feature as part of the channel's Horizon strand, asks the question: What does a world of 10 billion people look like, and what pressures would it put on resources?
"It is, in my opinion, singularly the most important thing to talk about," states Packham.
"As a species, we are enormously intelligent and adaptable and we will survive the impact of climate change - although the changes that we undergo will be catastrophic and life will be nothing like it is now."
But, he adds, with the population set to continue to rise, "we're just running out of resources" - on this he references forecasts that suggest by 2050 there will be more than 10 billion people on the planet.
"This is a conversation that very desperately needs to be had," he says.
Is he optimistic about the future?
"I've got a sneaking suspicion that the best part of the human species' time on earth is yet to come.
"I think, at the moment, we're the rowdy teenager that's running before it can walk and we're making lots of mistakes.
"We will, perhaps, get back to a time when we can live in harmony on this planet - that's my utopian dream."
Blue Planet Live, BBC One, Sunday, 8pm; Blue Planet UK, BBC One, Monday, 4.30pm