On the Green Fence, the podcast “trying to restore balance”

Originally a concept for an environment podcast from two reporters who had little to no experience in environment journalism, On the Green Fence has become an important podcast delving into climate issues.

Neil King and Gabriel Borrud, colleagues at Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, worked together to produce an award winning, hour long radio feature in 2017 for DW’s WorldLink programme which explored all sides of the country’s refugee crisis.

The format they adopted for the feature was to explore the crisis from both sides of the fence. They thought that this type of approach might also work well for environment journalism because it can be dominated by journalists and activists who take a one-sided view.

This is how the concept for their environment podcast came about. Neil explains: “Initially this was the USP – the fact that we approached the environment stories without any green agenda and without knowing too much about the subject matter. 

“Our aim was to take the listener along with us, road-trip style and let them share in our experiences and very steep learning curve.”

Neil and Gabriel
Neil King and Gabriel Borrud

Neil admits that before the podcast he believed that things can’t be that bad and we’ll pull through somehow – as we always have. Since launching the podcast, On the Green Fence, he’s become convinced that the climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time, and it is threatening our very existence on this planet.

“The more experts we interviewed and the more we looked at the science, the clearer it became to us that we are on a truly terrible trajectory. It depressed us and contributed to Gabe dropping out of the podcast eventually,” says Neil.

On the Green Fence is there to promote general discussion and to include more “everyday people” so there’s something for everyone in the podcast and perhaps they may reconsider their own position and behaviour beyond their own peer bubble and comfort zone. 

Neil explains: “I guess in a way you could say we are trying to restore or achieve balance with our podcast – which is what also works best in nature.”

Topics covered are varied and in-depth, they range from the impact of our meat eating to the environmental effects of the car – an industry that’s very important to the German economy.

As far as meat is concerned, we learn that over 750 million animals are slaughtered in Germany each year, with dire consequences for the environment. The podcast talks to a former food inspector and to animal rights activists to try and get a balanced view. Farmers talk about the humane killing of animals, there’s talk about hunting sustainable meat, overcoming meat addiction and even veganism.  Did you know that a vegan diet can cut food-related emissions by up to 70%, or that meat production is set to grow 85% by 2050?

In the latest series of On the Green Fence, tackling the hot topic of cars, host Neil King takes a closer look at Germany’s road map for e-mobility and what this means for the environment. It asks the question: Is e-mobility really the best way forward, or are we simply opening up the next environmental problem by scaling-up e-batteries in a bid to replace the 1.5 billion cars that exist on the planet? Neil talks to both stakeholders and critics; he also picks the brains of experts from a broad range of disciplines.

Although the podcast is made by Deutsche Well in Germany, it is in English and aimed at the international market. Neil is a senior environment editor (and podcaster) for the company, he was born to British parents and raised in Germany. In 2007 he joined DW’s news and current affairs team in Bonn and after several years of hosting and producing the radio shows, he signed up with the company’s environment section where he co-created the On the Green Fence podcast.

Response has been very positive, although Neil says: “Occasionally there will be a radical environmentalist who won’t even listen to the podcast in full, but on the whole, listeners appreciate the balanced way of approaching the stories, especially the interdisciplinary approach that allows us to include cultural, sociological, psychological and economic aspects. 

“And also, the fact that we don’t have any political or hidden agenda,” he adds.

Future plans for the podcast include an election related mini-series taking a closer look at the eco topics that are dominating the lives of real people in Germany, which could also impact the outcome of the upcoming election. There will also be a series on housing later this year, which has many facets that tie in with the environment and they are also looking to develop partnerships with other podcasts and broadcasters.

You can download or subscribe to On the Green Fence at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or where you get your podcasts.

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