Ferngully Hippies and Banana Refugees

When I was little, my mom took me to see Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

I hated it.

It was an agenda-pushing, liberal hippie love-fest. I didn’t know any of those words then, but that’s about how I felt. And being in the South at the time, those were not good words.

Some hippie rehearsing “Give Peace a Chance” – photo by Roy Kerwood

But something about the movie must have worked a little on me, because it (secretly) bothered me a lot to think of the destruction of the rainforest. Maybe it was the charm of the film’s fairy lady heroine.

I remember after seeing the movie that for years I thought of people who wanted to save the rainforest as animal-lovers. It was really trendy in the mid-nineties to care about rainforests and whales and all of the threatened birds, insects and flora that went with them. I liked animals, too. But it was never a cause that stole my heart.

Not that this excuses my rather apathetic childhood views about those poor creatures, but I don’t remember anyone ever talking about the people.

Where were the people?

I learned late in high school that people live(d) in rainforests.

People! From Oregon to the Amazon. It made sense to me: rainforests have food and shelter, allow protection for small communities, provide water and other natural resources.

Suddenly I was called out of my apathy. It would be a couple of years before I cared deeply about the birds of paradise (today I’m an avid supporter of those little guys). But people? Now it was personal.

In 2009 a new film came out that showed a lot of similarities to the agenda-pushing, liberal hippie love-fest of Ferngully. It was called Avatar, and you might have heard of it.

If you’ve seen the film, you will remember a scene in which refugees (albeit blue) flee an act of heartless cruelty that happens in their forest. In the cries of the running widows and children, we get a glimpse into what actual rainforest devastation looks like for the humans living there. What it has really done to families, tribes, and nations who depend on the land for their livelihoods and protection.

Rainforest, also known as Home

On the banana plantations today, as just one example, acres of valuable forest continue to be cleared so that, rather than small farmers growing the crop as one of many in their gardens, corporations can make room for a one-crop system.

The method of tearing down these forests, of changing the soil and letting pesticides spill into rivers and infect the ground, requires money, manipulation and, as mentioned yesterday, brute force. People are being murdered. Children are losing their homelands.

The agenda-pushing, liberal hippie love-fests don’t seem to be working! We aren’t converting film lovers into people lovers! Lovers of the birds of paradise and the monkeys and the spiders and the people.

If only we could translate our compassion for fake fairy ladies and blue aliens into men, women, and children! We’ve gotten fat on banana pudding for over a century, and without ever asking, “Would we eat these bananas if we knew how to love?”

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