If Not Us, Then Who?

The Question, is at the back of our minds,

as we waltz into an era of global struggle. As the music speeds up to a frantic pace, however, we continue to dance, ignoring the warning signs just to enjoy our evening of overindulgence on this planet, a little bit more.

 We know our overconsumption, thirst for fossil fuels, deforestation, and the toxic effects of our resource lust will be a real pain to clean up in the morning, but we hold out, collectively thinking, “someone really should do something about the state of our Earth.”

Sadly, not everyone has been invited to the party. Peoples all over the world who live closely to the land, who depend on a healthy environment for their livelihoods, and who suffer through the damaging consequences of natural exploitation have been fighting to survive through the night.

As the victims of environmental injustice often live in remote environments, filmmakers play a critical role in amplifying their voices. Paul Redman, of Handcrafted Films, has been traveling throughout Central America, Peru, Brazil, and Indonesia to unify defiance against ecological abuses as part of the “If Not Us, Then Who?” campaign. Redman and his team work with indigenous communities to listen to their stories, help them document their troubles, and use the rapidly-produced yet emotive, beautiful, and effective short films to build support towards a solution.

“The aim of the project is to promote indigenous people as the most viable solution to the long term protection of forests.” Redman writes FFC. “We are also developing various events in partnership with international and national NGOs and have so far launched in New York, Lima and Indonesia.”

One “If Not Us, Then Who?” story is about the murder of an indigenous Peruvian activist named Edwin Chota, who fought against illegal logging in his Asheninka community:



“I filmed the widows of the four murdered Ashanenka leaders at the end of last year and we promoted the film in partnership wth Global Witness & Rainforest Foundation US in Lima,” Redman writes.


After showing the photos and film at the Lima Itinerant Film Festival in November of 2014, and bringing in Ashanenka leaders, the Peruvian government finally listened.

“The villagers of Saweto have since been granted land title to over 80,000 hectares of their traditional forests, which is a real success story for everyone involved.” Redman writes. “But we are still working to ensure more land titles are granted to other Ashanenka communities and we are exploring ways to do that later this year.”

Since screening the film in Peru, Redman left the materials with local NGOs and he and his team moved on to Indonesia to fight monoculture eucalyptus plantations:

The campaign is fully funded by the Ford Foundation and the Climate & Land Use Alliance (CLUA), and is aiming to bring these voices to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“We have further promotional events in Germany and Paris later this year to build awareness before the UNFCCC meeting in Paris,” Redman writes.

Now that the music sounds a bit slurred, and we realize that our waltz cannot last forever, what can we do? To help right these injustices,

  1. Don’t buy products that use tropical hardwoods, as many logging operations forge the documents to export their wood as though it came from legal concessions – with up to 80% of wood being fraudulently claimed as legal, according to Greenpeace Brazil
  2. Don’t buy products that use palm oil, as palm oil plantations contribute to the deforestation of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the forests of many other peoples
  3. Sign petitions to protect indigenous people and rainforests here, at Takepart.com http://www.takepart.com/feature/2015/02/06/sustainable-furniture-killing-indigenous-people


And thank Paul Redman and his team, for answering the question “If Not Us, Then Who?” with resounding action!



“Earth: A New Wild” blows away cuteness standards, presents uplifting and serious conversation

How many baby pandas does it take to make a conservation film a success?

Two? Four? Nine?

Hedging their bets, PBS, National Geographic and Passion Planet went with… 14!

In their upcoming series, Earth: A New Wild, viewers will get to ogle fourteen baby pandas, as Conservation International Executive Vice President Dr. M. Sanjayan guides them on a journey exploring the intrinsic nature of humanity’s role in nature. Filmmakers for Conservation was at a sneak peak of the upcoming series screened at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. – the five-part film promises to bring optimism to the conservation conversation to living rooms all over the country.

Dr. Sanjayan said he wanted to work on this series – and call it The New Wild – to remove the distinction between the natural and the human worlds. “We humans are part of nature,” he said, “and when you realize that, we realize saving nature is saving ourselves.” He said in certain areas it was impossible to film wildlife without getting humans in the frame, and he hopes by telling the story of how humans are part of nature – not separated from it – viewers will learn, “Just how much we need each other to survive.”

Filming over 5 years in 29 countries and 45 locations, the producers decided to separate the films based on habitats, with episodes covering “Home,” “Plains,” “Forests,” “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water.” The first episode explores “Home,” establishing the series arc that humans share our home with nature – and it goes big, with Dr. Sanjayan’s visit to the breeding center of the Bifengxia Panda Base in Wolong, China. Researchers there have determined when females are most fertile as part of their efforts to re-wild the iconic species, and after resisting the concentrated power of such adorable panda delight, witnessing the baker’s dozen of black and white babies roll around on the floor, Dr. Sanjayan dons a panda suit himself, as he witnesses the first-ever release of a captive-bred panda into the wild.

Breeders take care of giant panda cubs inside a crib at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 23, 2013. Fourteen new joiners to the 128-giant-panda-family at the base were shown to the public on Monday, according to local media. REUTERS/China Daily

Breeders take care of giant panda cubs inside a crib at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 23, 2013. Fourteen new joiners to the 128-giant-panda-family at the base were shown to the public on Monday, according to local media. REUTERS/China Daily

Along with Zhang Xiang’s historic amble, Dr. Sanjayan visits Dr. Jane Goodall in Tanzania, where new chimpanzees have entered the Gombe National Park, thanks to community initiatives to connect fragmented habitat by subsidizing border trees. But now the villagers report chimps have taken infants from their homes, highlighting the difficulty of life in the shared wild.

The “Plains” episode introduces the theories of Rhodesian-born biologist Allan Savory, about the need to restore to the plains the millions of herd animals who once kept them healthy. Dr. Sanjayan visits the Russian steppes, where the proboscises of saiga antelope once roamed with more snouts than the wildebeest of the African savannahs. With their floppy schnozzes warming the frigid air, the saiga roam, eating and dispersing 100 plant species. After the fall of the Soviet Union, poachers ravaged the herds from numbering two million down to 20,000, hunting their horns for traditional Chinese medicine. A boom in irrigated agriculture has also led to their home pastures in Kalmykia to become the first manmade desert in Europe, as 80% of the arid region has lost plant coverage. Dr. Sanjayan tries to show that hope abounds, meeting researchers who are tracking the saiga’s numbers, and finding ways to protect them from poachers.

The “Plains” episode also offers the most bizarre human-wildlife interaction, as Dr. Sanjayan travels to northern Scandinavia, where the Sami people were possibly the first to domesticate herd animals. Those who still live the traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle, follow their herds of reindeer throughout the winter. The males can get very aggressive in the rutting season, however, and after the autumn battle for females they are so exhausted that nine in ten will perish in the following winter. Well… ancestral knowledge was quick to incorporate anatomy into the equation, and Dr. Sanjayan’s Sami hosts invite him to participate in the traditional cure:

The Sami call their modified male reindeer the “Gentlemen of the Tundra,” as they spend the winter helping the females dig through the snow for those last remaining morsels to munch…

Dr. Sanjayan kept the “Forests” episode under wraps, but FFC did catch glimpses of the final “Oceans,” and “Fresh Water” films, in which Dr. Sanjayan goes fishing in the mangrove nurseries of Florida for pregnant and newborn lemon sharks, and then kayaks the Colorado River to its end with photographer Peter McBride, where the mighty river painfully dies in the dusts of Mexico’s Sonora Desert. Although Mexico receives less and less of the Colorado’s life-force, not far from the dried-up wetlands it once watered Dr. Sanjayan and McBride fly over the Cienaga wetlands, where 40,000 acres of new life has sprung from farm water run-off somewhere upstream. Dr. Sanjayan points out nature’s resiliency: as one door closes, another opens.

Earth: A New Wild will air on PBS starting on Wednesday, February 4, at 9/8c PM. Now that you’re warned of the carnage of cuteness of 14 baby pandas, enjoy the programming, and let us know what you think!

SOS – Save Our Sholas


This pro bono film, put together mainly from the filmmaker’s 20 year archive and contributions from filmmaker Suresh Elamon, depicts the stunning biodiversity of the rain forests of India’s Western Ghats mountain range, and underlines their tremendous watershed value to hundreds of millions of people in South India. It also shows the devastation caused by mining, dams, plantations and resource extraction on this fragile landscape. Originally produced in English and Hindi, DVDs of the film have been distributed to 10,000 schools across India. Subsequently, the film was also translated into Tamil and is being screened extensively by several NGOs at various fora in South India, to raise public awareness about the vital lifeline provided by the ‘shola’ forests that clothe the southern Western Ghats.

Positive results:

Unknown to date.


Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 25 minutes
Format: 16mm/MINI DV
Country: India
Production Year:2008

By Jason Peters

Korup – An African Rainforest

Korup – An African Rainforest


In the 1970’s the world was slowly waking up to the devastating levels of tropical deforestation. At that time, international wildlife conservation was focussed almost entirely on the protection of single species. Little attention was being paid to the larger picture of the total ecosystem and the importance of these natural places to the people who depend on them.

In 1977, Phil Agland travelled to Cameroon with the intention of helping to create a programme of conservation that would try to address the central challenge of making rainforest conservation relevant to the lives of local people. An essential prerequisite was to be the making of a film that would focus international attention on the extraordinary biodiversity of tropical forests. Its purpose was to focus attention on one forest in particular – Korup. An ancient ‘refuge’ forest reserve on the border with Nigeria, known at that time to local people and a handful of research scientists, lead by Dr. J. Stephen Gartlan.

Working in Korup was to prove a challenge. Not only had Agland not shot a film before, but Korup proved to be one of the wettest forests in the world, with almost continuous rain for 8 months. Filming entirely alone, Agland combined Korup with a summer job painting houses to pay for the film stock. The next five years was to be a process of painstaking accumulation of behavioural and ecological sequences, often filmed high in the canopy, pioneering such novel techniques as Image Intensified filming at night. The work led ultimately to the finished film, Korup: An African Rainforest that was to become Channel 4’s first natural history film, broadcast in November 1982.

Positive results

The film was chosen to spearhead WWF’s 1982 Campaign to ‘Save the World’s Rainforests’ and the Earthlife Foundation’s Campaign to support the designation of Korup as a National Park, supported by a programme of sustainable development in the designated buffer zone adjacent to the Park.

An official showing of the film to the British Government in 1986, in the presence of Sir Crispin Tickell, head of the ODA, led directly to a grant of £440,000 to the Korup project – the first such Government grant to rainforest conservation.

This grant was followed by grants from the United States, the European Union, and the Dutch and German Governments and a multi-million dollar programme administered by WWF.

Korup was officially declared Cameroun’s first Rainforest National Park in November 1986.

As of 2012, Korup continues to receive significant international funding and remains the focus of a multi-national sustainable development programme.

Subsequent films:

Fragile Earth: A series of six programmes including the award winning Siarau and Selva Verde.


Fragile Earth Retrospective
Baka: People of the Rainforest
Baka: Komba’s Forest
Baka: Growing Up
Follow-up film: Baka: A Cry from the Rainforest http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0192w60
Beyond the Clouds
Spirits, Ghosts and Demons
Shanghai Vice
A French Affair
Love and Death in Shanghai


Director: Phil Agland
Producers: Phil Agland and Michael Rosenberg
Partridge Films Limited

By Jason Peters