Rainforest Action Network & Gar Smith / Berkeley Daily Planet – 2017-11-17 20:23:11
Orangutans: Up in Smoke
Chelsea Matthews / Rainforest Action Network
Every year, thousands of acres of rainforests in Indonesia are burned to the ground. These fires are intentionally and illegally started to make way for palm oil plantations. Conflict Palm Oil from these plantations makes its way into the global market, into major brand products, and into consumer’s homes.
Despite this, snack food giant PepsiCo refuses to take robust action to ensure its palm oil supply chain is not driving this destruction.
As the forests go up in flames, and the smoke enters the sky, hope fades for the survival of orangutans. When the forest goes up in smoke, so will wild orangutans.
We’ve convinced many major corporations to take action on Conflict Palm Oil before — but PepsiCo still refuses to do what’s needed. Researchers know that many orangutan populations are still viable — meaning, if their habitats are left alone, they will not only survive as a species, but their numbers can rebound and grow.
We are a nonprofit of a few dozen staffers fighting against a multi-billion dollar corporation. Help us convince PepsiCo to stop its part in this destruction. We can’t win without your support. You, and thousands of others within our network are the secret weapon that PepsiCo doesn’t have. Please, make any size donation today and help us secure the future of orangutans in Indonesia.
Chelsea Matthews is a Forest Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network
Jane: Dr. Goodall and the Real Planet of the Apes
Reviewed by Gar Smith / The Berkeley Daily Planet
When I first saw the movie posters for Jane — the story of world-famous chimpanzee researcher Dr. Jane Goodall — I assumed it was a biopic and I wondered who had been chosen to play the lead.
To my surprise, it turns out that this true tale of a young woman’s journey from a prim British childhood to a primeval African adventure (and onwards to global fame as an environmental activist) is a documentary starring none other than Jane Goodall herself.
The film is a magnificent cinematic and emotional achievement — by turns, whimsical, magical, illuminating, astonishing, and frightening.
Adding to the magic is the fact that this documentary only exists because of the recent chance discovery of 100 hours of presumably lost reels of 16mm film.
The rare images on these precious reels were captured 50 years ago by Hugo van Lawick, a charismatic National Geographic filmmaker. Van Lawick, who also features prominently in Jane, also became Goodall’s photography partner, friend, lover, and eventual husband.
Goodall (still witty and energetic in her 80s) narrates the film.
It seems adventure was always in her blood. When she was a little girl, Goodall recalls, she used to climb the tallest trees in her backyard and dream of Africa. In 1960, she realized her dream when Kenyan anthropologist Richard Leaky chose to send her on a research mission to Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge. As a 26-year-old secretary with no scientific training, Goodall was suddenly thrust into the wilds of the Gombe National Forest armed with nothing more than a pair of field binoculars and a notebook.
The long-lost images, recovered and expertly edited by award-winning Dutch filmmaker Brett Morgen, somehow manage to tell it all. We see Goodall in the first five months of her immersion in Gombe, splashing barefooted through rivers, clambering up vine-choked ravines, and crouching in tree limbs, hoping to catch a glimpse into the lives of the wild chimpanzees.
Jane Goodall’s screen presence is electrifying. Her face radiates intelligence, curiosity, and good humor. With her wry smile and darting eyes, she has undeniable star power.
The first images are of animals glanced at a far distance. As the months go on, however, the distance between Jane and the apes steadily narrows as they become used to the presence of this strange, solitary blonde primate. Eventually, a single, soft, hairless human hand reaches out and touches the calloused fingers of curious creature from the planet’s wild history.
While science fiction is filled with tales of brave astronauts traveling to far-off planets in hopes of making contact with alien intelligence, Jane Goodall has already accomplished this — by reaching out to an intelligent life-form right here on our own beleaguered planet.
In one amazing scene after another, the apes grow closer. As Goodall takes copious field notes, we share in her discoveries as the chimpanzees reveal their personalities and foibles. At one point, the nearly lost film loops capture the amazing sight of chimpanzees casually fashioning their own implements to go digging for food. Goodall’s revelation that these creatures were intelligent, tool-using animals sent shockwaves through the scientific community. Suddenly, humans were no longer the planet’s only “tool-using animal.”
Van Lawick’s camera work — whether in the jungles of Tanzania or on the savannas of the Serengeti — remains breathtakingly beautiful, enhanced by the saturated tones of the Ektachrome filmstock from the era. Whether van Lawick is tracing the fragile beauty of the smallest crawling insects or documenting bloody mortal contests between hyenas, lions, zebras, and gazelles — the scenes of animal behavior are eye-opening and heartrending.
Van Lawick’s camera seems to capture everything — from playful exchanges between infant chimps and their mothers to sudden bursts of physical rage among the adult males.
In the course of their shared work in Tanzania, Jane and Hugo have a child. We watch their home movies as the little boy struggles, chimp-like, to master the art of walking. Later we marvel at the self-assured ease with which the five-year-old boy plunges into a lake and paddles around while a baboon sits on the shore and watches curiously.
The scenes of Jane and the champs cavorting in the forests — and during increasingly common visits to her camp — are idyllic, as apes and humans bond, sharing food, pranks, and camaraderie.
But in life, as in movies, idylls can be disrupted by drama, death, and destruction.
A matriarch in the chimp community dies. We watch as her young son reaches out tentatively, then desperately, trying to rouse his mother’s lifeless body from the river in which she has collapsed. Finally, the child wanders off in despair, settles down in the forest, stops eating, and dies.
With the matriarch’s death, the community is disrupted. Factions arise. One party takes off and settles in a different part of the forest. Once neighbors, they have become strangers. And, to Goodall’s horror, the chimpanzees that she has grown to love over the years suddenly turn on one another, waging a brutal war on the outcasts and killing them all.
Astonishingly, van Lawick managed to capture the grisly combat as screaming chimps, biting and flailing, crash through the underbrush and, at times, nearly collide with van Lawick’s camera.
The rapidity with which a stable community of neighbors can be divided and turn against itself, astonished Goodall. In our current state of political and social divisiveness, this should serve as a warning to our human tribes as well.
Despite this single shocking plunge into darkness, Jane, is a remarkably humane and enjoyable film, filled with deeply emotional moments that will inspire, entertain, and remain in your memory.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.