As we progress through the decade, the crucial emissions goal for 2030 draws slowly closer. Reaching this target won't be easy, but every day, more and more eco-warriors are stepping up to the task. Here are 22 ones to watch in 2022 who are up for the challenge...
The Show-and-Tell Scientist: Dr Ella Gilbert
Science, technology, engineering, arts and maths meld together at Festival UK 2022 this year, an expo of 10 creative projects exploring solutions to global challenges. Dr Ella Gilbert, a scientist and presenter (she’s often on the Daily Climate Show on Sky News), works as part of New Substance, a collective creating a large-scale installation about the UK’s coast and weather – a personal passion. Sign up for updates through the website.
The Paw Patrol: Monty Don’s dog, Patti
No one could replace Nigel, Monty Don’s late Golden Retriever, but Patti, his young Yorkshire terrier, has been snatching many a viewer’s heart on Gardeners’ World as they take in Monty’s gardening advice. Patti has already caused a stir by trying to derail a parsnip sowing session at Longmeadow. We await further ‘contributions’ in the new series this spring.
The Teenage Twitcher: Mya-Rose Craig
At 19, Mya-Rose Craig, founder of Black2Nature, a non-profit organisation running birdwatching trips for people from minority backgrounds, has already appeared on Countryfile and Winterwatch. This spring, while in her first year at Cambridge, she releases her first book, Birdgirl: This is My World, a memoir about how her family’s love of birds helped them through difficult times.
The Greenfluencer: Jack Harries
It might be tempting to dismiss an influencer on principle – until you realise that Jack Harries, 28, has 1.3m Instagram followers, 3.75m YouTube subscribers and recently made a film that was shown at COP26. Jack’s films focus on solutions to the climate crisis and have involved collaborations with partners from Penguin to Stella McCartney.
Our New Queen Royal: Duke of Cambridge
His grandmother created The Queen's Green Canopy to establish more woodland, while his father is one of our most treasured plant whisperers. But it's the Duke of Cambridge who is fast becoming our freshest green royal. The Prince – who has loved the environment ever since his mother, Princess Diana, took him to the Natural History Museum as a boy – founded the Earthshot Prize last year for people who have helped the planet, signalling his designs to take us into a greener future. Nominations for this year's prize opened this month. Long may His Eco Highness reign.
The Carbon-Neutral Champion: Dame Louise Martin
Hype is building for the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games this summer – and, for the first time, the Games will be carbon-neutral. The Commonwealth Games Federation, led by Dame Louise Martin, a former competitive swimmer, is planting 2,000 acres of forests, banning single-use plastics and clearing up 22 miles of canal to help. Local buses, trams and trains will also be free for spectators to discourage driving, while new cycle lanes and walking routes between venues are already under way.
The Star Turn: Mark Rylance
For one month a year, Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance renounces his career to carry out building work on green projects. But his acting work also has a distinctly green flavour. Listen out for the final part of Song of the Reed, a Radio 4 drama following a fictional nature reserve in the spring (the others are on BBC Sounds), and catch him in Jerusalem, a play about a lost England, on its West End return from April.
The TV Farmhand: Kaleb Cooper
Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime, documenting a year on Jeremy Clarkson’s arable estate in the Cotswolds, made such a favourable impression on viewers in 2021 – farmers included – that a second series is due to air this summer. Jeremy’s sidekick, Kaleb Cooper, now 23, is again likely to steal the show, scolding Jeremy for errors like failing to plant his crops in a straight line or building a barn that is too small for the harvest. He’s also helped us all to understand the challenges of farming and has teamed up with Mole Valley Farmers to search for the Country Heroes of 2021.
The Model Gardener: Poppy Okotcha
Poppy Okotcha used to model for Vivienne Westwood. Now she’s more likely to be cultivating her edible forest garden in Devon. Poppy, who trained with the RHS, has appeared on Gardeners’ World and hosted The Great Garden Revolution, a garden transformation show on Channel 4. This year, an online gardening course, a book and more TV work are in the pipeline.
The Money Man: Richard Curtis
Richard Curtis, best known for his rom-com films, steps up his crusade this year to encourage us all to invest our money in eco-friendly ways. His campaign, Make My Money Matter, which has been building momentum since 2020, encourages savers to ask our pension provider to put our money into ‘green’ companies that harness renewable resources or drive innovation. Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, and Alok Sharma, COP26 president, are on board.
The King of Conservation: David Attenborough
Where would we be without David Attenborough? The king of conservation returns to our screens in 2022 to narrate two more characteristically ambitious series: Planet Earth III and Dynasties II, both on the BBC. The latter follows the trials and tribulations of an African elephant, a she cheetah, puma and spotted hyena as Sir David travels from the Andes to the Zambezi River.
The Next-Gen Gardener: Freddie Strickland
Last year, Freddie Strickland won the RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year 2021 Award for On Tropic, a design looking at how planting might adapt to our changing climate. This year, the landscape designer, who has a degree in fine art, will join the Young Designer finalists to create a garden for staff at the Royal Free Hospital in London. Rumour has it that he will also be returning to Chelsea in May.
The Fair Traders: Cathy St Germans and Catherine Chong
Covid exposed the fragility of our food systems: while some producers struggled to get food to shops, many consumers stocked up in panic or avoided stores altogether. In response, Cathy St Germans, a former journalist, and Catherine Chong, a sustainability adviser, set up Farms to Feed Us, a UK wide database connecting producers directly with shoppers. The scheme has been such a hit that the pair are growing their list and telling producer stories through their website and social media feed.
Also leading the charge...
14. Joshua Styles– TV slots and talks are in the diary for the 26-year-old botanist, following stints on Springwatch and Countryfile.
15. Jake Fiennes – The Holkham Estate conservationist snatchesthe spotlight from brothers Ralph and Joseph for the launch of his debut book, Land Healer, in April.
16. Laurelin Cummins-Fraser – The director of the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre near Loch Ness prepares to open the world’s first centre of its kind in the coming months.
17. Anita Sethi – Nocturne, the second book in Anita’s nature trilogy, is out in June. The first was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize.
18. Maisie Williams – The Game of Thrones actor settles into her role as the first WWF Global Ambassador for Climate and Nature.
19. Kathleen Jamie – A nature writer seems an apt appointment for the Scottish Makar, or national poet, in our eco-conscious age – and a cause for celebration, too.
20. Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera – Spot new Flock Together groups across the
country as the founders of the urban birdwatching group expand their locations this year.
21. Tom Gibbs and Donovan Wright – The UK’s first bison rangers prepare woods in Kent for the arrival of a small herd to help restore the landscape.
22. Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay – The new Green Party leaders rev up their push for the planet.
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