Rainforest group hopes to raise $750,000 at benefit concert

March 11, 1992|By New York Daily News

NEW YORK — New York--There's nothing more important in war than to win a battle now and again. So pop music artists fighting to save the tropical rain forests are describing tomorrow night's benefit show at Carnegie Hall as both a celebration of one major victory and a commitment to press on for more.

In marked contrast to huge public benefits such as Live Aid, this show will be relatively low profile. Sting, Elton John, Natalie Cole, Don Henley and James Taylor will sing pop music classics by the likes of Gershwin, Cole Porter and Noel Coward for a crowd that is paying $40-$1,000 a ticket.

The goal is to raise about $750,000 for Rainforest Foundation USA, whose goals include protecting the Brazilian rain forest and helping indigenous people develop a viable economy without selling or leasing forest land to developers and ranchers for slash-and-burn projects.

The major victory Rainforest will hail tomorrow is the announcement by the Brazilian government in November that Chief Raoni and the Mekragnoti people have formal control over their territory, an area of the rain forest larger than Switzerland.

Chief Raoni's fight for this demarcation had been strongly supported by Rainforest USA since it was founded in 1988.

Trudie Styler, president of Rainforest Foundation and producer of tomorrow's show -- as well as Sting's significant other -- says the foundation is pressing to have other Brazilian people given similar guarantees.

But the government announcement doesn't mean the forest is saved, end of story, on to next cause.

"Continuing vigilance is the price of saving the rain forest," says rTC Larry Cox, executive director of the foundation.

Ms. Styler and Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation after meeting Chief Raoni. This is the third annual concert to raise money for its operations, and the shows have been kept small -- more in the tradition of old-style fund-raising, where a small group pays high prices for a one-of-a-kind event.

This eliminates the enormous production costs of large events, meaning less of the take flows out.

"I shouldn't be the one to say this," says Ms. Styler, "but I've had a sense the big shows were getting a bit boring. This gives the artists a chance to do something they don't ordinarily do, so there's more excitement from their side as well."

To further ensure that the high-priced seat-holders get a unique concert, Rainforest has again decided not to tape or film it -- despite the fact that selling it as a cable-TV special, for instance, could raise more money.

"We've debated that," says Ms. Styler. "But we decided against it."

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