Rainforests, Primary And Otherwise

Thanks to the Guardian for bringing this to our attention:

At an age when freedom passes allow pensioners to take on the challenge of clambering to the top deck of a bus, Dr Francis Hallé is more likely to be found perched at the top of a tree.

The retired professor of botany is 75 and has just completed his first film. In it he can be seen standing, without a safety rope, on a branch of a massive moabi tree 230 feet above the forest floor.

He is at ease, seemingly oblivious to the dizzying drop and, as the camera pans away, the beauty of the forest stretching into the distance becomes apparent.

But it is a bittersweet image. During his lifetime he has watched helplessly as tropical forests undisturbed for millennia have been logged, razed and ploughed.

In an attempt to bring world attention to the plight of the rainforests he spent 25 years seeking a film-maker who could breathe life into a film in which trees are the stars.

His search ended when he met Luc Jacquet, the Oscar-winning director of March of the Penguins, who was looking for a new challenge after his Antarctic success. The result of the collaboration is Il Etait une Forêt.

Hallé hopes the film can bring the same public attention to forests as Jacques Cousteau did for marine life: “When I was young I saw the first film of Commander Cousteau [The Silent World]. This film had a very big impact on the public in many places in the world. So our aim – Luc and I – is to inform the public but also to try to modify behaviour.”

His main concern is for primary tropical forests, the undisturbed jungles that take at least 700 years to re-grow and which now cover a tiny fraction of what they did even half a century ago.

“When I was a young scientist in the 1960s primary rainforest was everywhere in the tropics,” he said. “Africa, Asia, South America. Everywhere.

“Fifty years later there are practically no primary forests left in the tropics. This happened over my lifetime. I’m a witness to it.” Had he suggested back in the 1960s that the forests were on their way out “everybody would have laughed”.

Read the rest of the article here.

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