Exploring the Boundaries of Environmental Activism: Chris Packham’s Contemplation

In today’s bewildering and confusing times, documentary presenters are seldom seen expressing their own bewilderment. However, Chris Packham’s thought-provoking film, “Is It Time to Break the Law?,” marks a significant departure from the norm. Packham confronts the audience with the urgency of the climate crisis through an audio montage and a striking visual representation of his face being slowly consumed by thick, black crude oil.

While it is highly likely that the “oil” is actually treacle, the underlying message remains clear. This film delves into an anguished dilemma faced by Packham himself, as he grapples with the question of how he should live his life in the face of the impending catastrophe. It compels viewers at home to make their own decisions about the future. The climate apocalypse is undeniably upon us, and despite the widespread fires and floods, the necessary changes to avert further disaster seem stubbornly out of reach. Voting, peaceful protests, and rational debate have all failed to generate the much-needed transformation. So, what is the solution?

One of the film’s crucial exchanges, with John Gummer, Lord Deben, vividly illustrates the heart of the problem. Gummer, who chaired the government’s Climate Change Committee, acknowledges Britain’s ineffective green initiatives and emphasizes the need for urgent action. However, when it comes to radical protests, Gummer adamantly stresses the importance of maintaining the rule of law. Packham, on the other hand, sympathizes deeply with ordinary citizens who have become hardcore climate activists, even risking their freedom for the cause. Packham’s endorsement of their actions is evident as he documents their disruptive demonstrations and proudly stands in solidarity with Just Stop Oil, a guerrilla pressure group.

Throughout the film, Packham challenges the shortcomings of traditional conservationism, even aiming his criticism at esteemed figures like David Attenborough. In his quest for guidance, Packham explores more radical approaches and meets Swedish ecology professor Andreas Malm, whose book resonates with its provocative title, “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.” While Malm clarifies that he does not necessarily advocate literal destruction, the suggestion of sabotaging fossil fuel infrastructure becomes a serious consideration.

In contemplating his own potential involvement in extreme activism, Packham raises a pivotal question: Could he risk sacrificing his reputation as one of nature television’s beloved figures by taking direct action? Roger Hallam, co-founder of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion, believes that Packham’s imprisonment could be the catalyst needed to propel the movement forward.

Although Packham does not publicly declare his intention to commit a criminal offense in the film, his unwavering support for climate activists who do cross that line is evident. The hope remains that he will continue to produce honest, challenging, and urgently relevant programs that inform and inspire audiences, without the constraints of imprisonment.


Q: What is the film “Chris Packham: Is It Time to Break the Law?” about?
A: The film explores Chris Packham’s contemplation of extreme activism in the face of the climate crisis.

Q: What approaches have failed to bring about the necessary change?
A: Despite voting, peaceful protests, and rational debate, the needed transformation has not materialized.

Q: Who is John Gummer, Lord Deben?
A: He chaired the government’s Climate Change Committee and warns against counterproductive action while emphasizing the importance of the rule of law.

Q: What is the focus of the film’s exploration of activism?
A: The film showcases ordinary people who engage in radical actions to protect humanity’s future and delves into the question of whether extreme measures are necessary.