Ferngully: The Last Rainforest

By Sally Kur

Yesterday I took my daughter to a movie. We went to see Ferngully. When the movie ended, I sat and watched the parade of giggling children skip outside into the bright afternoon sunlight. These children–our hope for tomorrow–weren’t singing the whimsical songs they’d just heard in the movie; they were making the buzzing sounds of a chainsaw.

I sat there. My daughter, who is 19, saw my sadness and sensed my alarm. She leaned over and whispered, “Mom, it wasn’t fair, was it?” You see, Rachel knows I have good friends who are loggers. She also knows how important their work really is.

Truthfully, I went to see Ferngully not because I love forests (which I do) but because of a movie review which began, “the first politically correct, ecologically sound animated film for kids.”

Since when is it politically correct to tell our children that loggers are villains, coffee belching, donut chomping, slovenly oafs who have complete disregard and disrespect for the forest.

This playful, magical movie with its, spunky forest creatures, forest fairies and mystical fairy dust, charms the socks off children–and most of the time their parents as well–at their expense of telling the whole story. Granted, the film speaks to the plight of the rainforest. But you can’t tell me those kids sitting in the theater in Tempe, Arizona know a rainforest from the ponderosa pine forests in Northern Arizona.

Perhaps the movie is politically correct in the broad sense–the careless destruction of the rainforests in South America and the Far East is wrong. But isn’t careless destruction wrong at any time? Why set up and villainize the (American) logger?

The loggers I know are out in the woods before most of us are out of bed. They know the complexities of the forest better than many of us know what we planted yesterday in our own backyards. I wonder how many people know–much less care–that loggers are often the first ones on the scene of a forest fire. Instead of kids listening to the forest fairy in her enchanted forest where fairies don’t work or build homes or feed their children, I wish they could hear my logger friends talk about the forests. Every time I go into the woods with them, I learn something new. And it all relates to how to better care for our forests.

I love fairy tales. But complex issues are too heavy for fairy tales. Black and white works in the realm of fairy tale land; it doesn’t work in the real world with complicated issues of great magnitude. In Ferngully, the forest fairy meets up with a logger and convinces him that humans have taken the magic out of the forest. At the end, the logger turns and walks away from the forest. That’s just too simple. Who’s telling our children that in some regions of the rainforests where there’s extreme poverty and lands are suitable for farming, that it makes good sense to clear some forest land for farming. In the real world we have to make choices, and decisions are not always easy.

Human intervention in many of our forests has been good. Our innovative spirit has given us a bountiful array of forest products. We use them; we count on them; and we want them. These products are from a renewable natural resource. We can have them and should have them. And if we do so wisely, our children and their children will enjoy the fruits of the forests as well. Yet, all our children see in Ferngully is a monstrous machine gobbling up the trees.

Recently, scientists discovered from the bark of the Yew tree a powerful weapon in battling ovarian cancer. We should applaud this spirit rather than scream doom and gloom for the Yew tree. This God-given gift to see and to meet the challenges we face as creatures of our good Earth is part of what makes us whole.

My logger friends are the first ones to say we have made some mistakes managing our forests. Stopping forest fires may well be the biggest mistake of all. As a result of fire suppression, Arizona’s forests are vastly different from their natural state. The forests were once open and park like. Our ancestors rode at a full gallop through our magnificent forests where there were maybe 15 trees per acre. Natural fires came along every two or three years to clear and thin and keep the natural order of forest life.

Today, these same forests are thick and overcrowded. We must intervene and thin the forests or we will lose them to another catastrophic fire.

I do not believe for one minute that the individuals who made the decision to stop forest fires did so maliciously. The question is, should we now advocate walking away and letting Mother Nature deal alone with our mistakes? I think not.

I was always taught that turning away may be the easiest avenue for the moment, but walking away never solves a problem, nor makes a difference. Finding solutions is always greater than despair.

Sadly, I wonder what will happen if our children believe the sorely incomplete message in Ferngully. What would happen if the loggers suddenly walked away, as we see in the movie? In our world, there are no forest fairies to watch over life in the forests. Or to bring to all of us the forest products we have come to rely on.

The children who see this “politically correct” film are getting short-changed. My logger friends are great caregivers of the forests. I wish these kids could meet them.

 

Sally Kur is president of Kur communications. Phoenix, Arizona

 

Editors Note: During the Rio Conference, the green ones had to admit the rainforest was not being destroyed at the reported 20 million hectares per year. They finally admitted to 2 million.