wed 02/12/2020

Our World: Colombia - Saving Eden, BBC Two review - the war is over, but can they save the rainforests? | reviews, news & interviews

Our World: Colombia - Saving Eden, BBC Two review - the war is over, but can they save the rainforests?

Our World: Colombia - Saving Eden, BBC Two review - the war is over, but can they save the rainforests?

Short but tightly-focused film tells a bittersweet story

An unidentified fruit from the Sapotaceae family, discovered on the expeditionFrank Gardner

Stories of the destruction of the natural environment are depressingly common, but Frank Gardner brought a fresh slant to this punchy account of a botanical expedition to Colombia (BBC Two).

Stories of the destruction of the natural environment are depressingly common, but Frank Gardner brought a fresh slant to this punchy account of a botanical expedition to Colombia (BBC Two). Best known as the BBC’s security correspondent, Gardner was partially paralysed in a terrorist attack in Riyadh in 2004, but was determined that this wouldn’t stop him. “I traded in my wheelchair for a pack horse,” he declared.

It almost didn’t work, because a panicky Gardner, unable to cling on with his legs, was almost flung from his horse while descending a steep mountain track. The local Colombian guides sprang to the rescue, and carried Gardner and his wheelchair on stout wooden poles.

This was a short but tightly-focused film, and the story he told as they travelled through impossibly beautiful mountain scenery was a bittersweet one. If you judged by Netflix’s Narcos, you’d think Colombia’s sole products were coca leaves and bullet-riddled corpses, but the country rivals Brazil for biodiversity. On this trip alone, mounted by botanists from Kew led by Dr Mauricio Diazgranados, two previously unknown plant species were discovered. But, as Gardner pointed out, with 3,000 square kilometres of rainforest being destroyed annually, many species are going to be exterminated before anybody has even realised they exist.

The civil war in Colombia between government forces and the FARC rebels ended in 2016, after dragging on for five decades, but the hostilities had put a damper on illegal logging and mining in the forests.

The outbreak of peace has prompted an unwelcome surge in these eco-damaging activities. “Our circumstances force us to carry on doing it,” argued a masked logger interviewed by Gardner’s team. “It’s the only way of making a living in the region.” With the Colombian army patrolling the forests to hunt down law-breakers, one wondered whether Gardner’s crew risked arrest for aiding and abetting as they filmed an 80-year-old tree being illicitly felled.

Hope springs eternal, however, and plans are in motion to promote ecotourism, creating income while safeguarding the precious forests. We should be sending donations.

The outbreak of peace in Colombia has prompted an unwelcome surge in eco-damaging activities

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