Watching the first two episodes of BBC2’s I bought a rainforest has been difficult viewing. Very difficult . But it’s something we should all be watching.
It’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the natural world and shrug our shoulders apologetically, with the view: “It’s not me mate, I’ve never chopped a tree down in my life.” After all, there’s always someone else to blame. “It’s those illegal loggers ain’t it, or the greedy bastard’s mining for gold….” And then we collectively reach for the remote control because it’s not “our” problem. I mean, there’s far more pressing things to do, like voting for the next winner of Britain’s Got Talent, or the next person to be booted out of the Big Brother house.
In the past, whenever I heard the phrase “a forest the size of Wales had been cut down” I would curse the loggers and local people (and Welsh people!!!), and perhaps wish ill on them because they were so damned retarded to be ruining the natural world around them. But they’re not doing it out of greed, or want, or because they can. They’re doing it to survive, and because there’s a massive demand for the natural resources of a rainforest from the western world … which makes me one of those damned retarded people ruining the natural world around them.
Quite a wake-up call.
And it was for Charlie Hamilton James when he visited the small area of Peruvian Rainforest he bought for £6000 (in an attempt to create a buffer against illicit operations in the Manu national park) and discovered the people who sold it were still logging and growing coca plants on it.
You can’t fault Charlie’s intentions. He has a passion for nature and feels strongly enough to want to make a difference, even if those intentions might be seen as naive (I’ll reserve judgement until episode 3). Simply making the series can only have a positive effect for a problem that needs global attention.
In episode one, Charlie visited the Crees Foundation, based in the Manu National Park, whose goal it is to create a long-term model for protecting the rainforest by trying to foster a symbiosis between the native people and the forest that will promote sustainability rather than complete exploitation. As we were reminded throughout the program, thousands of species rely upon the rainforest for their survival, and like it or not (for those who believe in the fantasy of a pristine and virgin wilderness) we have to include man on that the list.
I used to wish I could buy a piece of the rainforest like Charlie, but I can’t. And, like Charlie is discovering to his better judgement, the problems are far too intrinsic for it to be of any use. Instead, I’m going to make a donation to the Crees foundation. It won’t be much – I don’t have that much to give. But I’m not on the edge of poverty. I don’t struggle to feed my children, or keep a roof over their head, not like the people who live and work the rainforest in order to survive.
And that is something to be truly thankful for.
If you missed the series, catch up on BBC iplayer
Or visit Crees Foundation if you can spare a donation.