PBS documentary

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JonF
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PBS documentary

Post by JonF » Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:43 pm

Hi,

I'm producing a national, prime time PBS documentary special and educational outreach initiative called, If Trees Could Talk. I'm with the Independent Production Fund, a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization and producers of award-winning programming for public broadcasting for twenty-five years. We've realized that with all the science and cultural programming on public television, there hasn't been a major special to focus the public's attention on that ever-present and vital organism that we all-too-often take for granted: the tree. We intend to address that need.

The concept behind If Trees Could Talk is simple: We want the public to recognize the many ways our lives are intertwined with trees. We depend on trees, we love trees, we use their products, but we tend to ignore them. While the focus of the project is recognition and appreciation, the aim is to promote more environmentally conscientious action. We feel that wonder and love are more powerful motivators than the anxiety of a doom and gloom scenario (as real and immediate as it may be). As you know, the simple act of conserving trees is among the most efficient and cost-effective measures we can take to improve the global environment.

In an entertaining and engaging style we'll cover a wide scope of trees' importance to humans and the planet, from science to mythology to art. We'll inspire people and encourage them to take a fresh look at trees in their yards and cities, as well as in forests near and far, and realize how - in so many ways - trees are critical to our functioning and well-being.

The project has received the endorsement of the Alliance for Community Trees, the Arbor Day Foundation, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Association of State Foresters, the National Forest Foundation, the Rainforest Alliance, the Forest Stewardship Council, American Forests, the UNEP, and the US Forest Service. In February we gave a presentation at the kick-off event in New York City for the UN's International Year of the Forest.

With national, prime time exposure and an extensive outreach campaign in communities and schools, we will use the power of television and contemporary media to make a difference by moving the public toward more sustainable attitudes and behaviors. The program and outreach of If Trees Could Talk will engage a broad national (and perhaps international) audience.

While we are beginning to have a good idea of some of the topics and stories we'll cover, we are interested in suggestions. Obviously, one film can only serve as an introduction, but we'll use the material as jumping off points for discussion, further exploration, and action.

We also are seeking suggestions for individuals, organizations, corporations, and foundations that would like to help support this non-profit initiative. I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks.

Jon Fein

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edfrank
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Re: PBS documentary

Post by edfrank » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:11 pm

Jon,

Welcome to the ENTS BBS. I am the BBS Administrator and webmaster for the ENTS website. I am sure members will post their thoughts on this matter. I will give the matter some thought and post some more expanded comments tlater. But for now, there are three things that really stick out in my mind.

The first deals with the interactions between people and trees. One thing that cannot be emphasized enough is the "peace of mind" people find when walking through a woodland. It gives the a chance to refresh their mind and get away from the stress of everyday life. It serves as an inspiration for artistic and philosophic expression. It provides balance and perspective on everyday things that dominate the individuals mind. To me these values to a persons emotional may well outweigh most of the other benefits gained from exploitation of these forests. We need wood resources and materials, but we need some areas that are safe from lumbering operations and development to gain these benefits. Too often these emotional benefits are simply written off or ignored, but they deserve recognition in a meaningful manner on any piece that is dealing with the relationships between people and the forest.

The second issue is how our forests are being severely impacted by invasive species. The present day invasion of the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is the poster-child for this effect. Across much of its native range the eastern hemlock and Carolina hemlock has all but been wiped out by this invasive insect from Asia. These major tree species and their associated ecosystems, may become extinct across all or most of their range in the next couple of decades. We have large amounts of data on this from the Tsuga Search Project conducted by Will Blozan, President of the Eastern Native Tree Society working with the National Park Service in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What is notable here is that in the 20s and 30s the American Chestnut faced a similar devastating population loss as a result of chestnut blight. In many ways the hemlock situation is far worse, but the American chestnut is the closest counterpart. Now American chestnut is still found as remnant young root sprouts growing from the root masses of these long fallen trees. These typically die before they produce nuts, and even then these nuts typically are not viable. There isn't any known naturally reproducing populations of the tree known to exist. The chestnut was a major component of the eastern forests and in some areas occupied up to 90% of the basal areas of all of the trees present. Today these forests are remembered only through a few written descriptions and increasingly rare second hand anecdotal stories. I ask - "How will the vast hemlock forests be remembered?"

The third issue that jumps out is how we are dealing with the few patches remaining of relatively intact old growth forests. There is constant pressure from industry to harvest these patches of forest for quick economic gain. As if harvesting this last few percent of old growth forest would save an industry whose failed economic policies and lack of foresight has rendered them incapable of sustaining themselves with the other 90+ percent available for utilization. Whether this harvesting is allowed or not depends on the political winds. If a party comes to power that allows these patches to be harvested, and time has shown over and over again that at some point this will happen, those irreplaceable forests are lost forever. Even today some Republicans are trying to de-list some National Parks so that the resources they are meant to protect can be harvested, mined, urbanized or otherwise commercialized for quick profit. We need to have some way to permanently protect these areas so that they can survive the political winds and scoundrels that will always be waiting in the wings.

We have some of the top people in the world in the fields of forest ecology, forestry research, and old growth systems, as well as those experienced in forestry as part of the Eastern Native Tree Society and Western Native Tree Society membership. Look around the website and this BBS and I am sure you will find a wide variety of topics that would be worth including in your documentary.

Ed Frank

.
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

Joe

Re: PBS documentary

Post by Joe » Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:26 am

If trees could talk, I'd ask them "what's it like to stand in one place for a very long time?". I am sure they are contemplating the sun moving across the sky while capturing its energy. When the soil is dry, the probably look forward to a heavy rain. But all those bugs crawling on them, eating their leaves and slowing chewing away at injuries probably is very irritating.

They might remind us that life as a tree is not easy- that when their forest grew into an old field, there were 1,000 trees per acre and now 100 years later there are only 60. Competing for air and water against so much competition is no fun!

But now that they're mature and have survivied all that--- the only thing they fear is the sound of chainsaws. Of course trees aren't very smart- they don't know what a chainsaw is- to them it's just the sound of some monster that quickly comes through the forest causing great distruction. If you try to explain to the tree that "it's just good forestry and we leave many trees", I don't think the tree you're talking with will appreciate being sacrificed after a century of struggle to be made into lumber, furniture or choped into chips and sent to a biomass power plant!

Yes, if only trees could talk.
Joe

JonF
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Re: PBS documentary

Post by JonF » Fri Apr 08, 2011 8:45 am

Thanks, Ed and Joe, for your thoughtful comments. It's an honor being part of this community and I hope, through the film, to inspire many others to recognize the passion they feel for our woody companions. I tend to start each day with a hike in the reservation near where I live and it helps me focus on the day. I've seen the loss of the hemlocks and the thoughtless reduction of forested land. Our hope - during these anxious times - is to remind folks of those intangible benefits to well-being that trees provide, as Ed mentions (as well as the ones that can be quantified). The bane of documentary filmmakers, though, is that while our mission is to shine a light on things people ignore that may make life better, our society fails to support these efforts. But, hey, life's better as an irrational idealist...

Jon

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edfrank
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Re: PBS documentary

Post by edfrank » Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:13 am

Joe (sorry for the aside Jon),

you wrote:
But now that they're mature and have survived all that--- the only thing they fear is the sound of chainsaws. Of course trees aren't very smart- they don't know what a chainsaw is- to them it's just the sound of some monster that quickly comes through the forest causing great destruction.
There was a competition on television a few years ago where the winner got to be the director of a movie funded at $1,000,000. One short entry in the series of competition stages was of a tree being attacked by a chainsaw. It was shot using colored gells and in the style of the shower scene from Psycho from the viewpoint of the tree. I thought it was a pretty cool concept, unfortunately it was trashed by the judges and the director was one of those eliminated from the competition. (I wish I could find a copy of it.) There were things that could have been better - some sound effects equivalent to the tree screaming - would have added a lot. But still the concept was good and should not have resulted in the director's elimination over some of the other entries.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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edfrank
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Re: PBS documentary

Post by edfrank » Tue May 10, 2011 8:49 am

ENTS - I received this note in my email this morning:

BTW, I spent some time reading on the ENTS bbs, and came across a thread by somebody doing a documentary, asking for suggestions. Your last post in the thread mentioned a short film about a tree being attacked "Psycho"-style. I remembered seeing that show, and looked it up - couldn't find the actual video anywhere, although I did find the clips where Carrie Fisher totally dissed it (although the reality show itself was really terrible.) The show was called "On the Lot" and the short film was called "The Orchard": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Lot Here is the website for the woman who produced the film: http://www.jessicabrillhart.com/

Connie


Ed Frank
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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James Parton
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Re: PBS documentary

Post by James Parton » Wed May 11, 2011 1:36 am

Jon,

This documentary sounds like a wonderful idea.

Not only would I like to see it address the negative impact man has on the forests, like invasives, deforestation and development, I would like to see positives like trees creating oxygen for us to breathe and also the fact that forests store a lot of carbon helping keep it out of the atmosphere.

And then there is the aesthetic and spiritual aspects of forests. Just taking time out to do some " forest bathing " has a wonderful effect on the soul, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. Trees are Mother Earth's ambassadors to mankind. If we would only take some quiet time and listen. And not take them for granted.
James E Parton
Ovate Course Graduate - Druid Student
Bardic Mentor
New Order of Druids

http://www.druidcircle.org/nod/index.ph ... Itemid=145

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