Special offers insight on 'Dying Rainforests'

August 18, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

The rich rain forest of the Amazon River in South America lies some 5,000 miles south of Baltimore, "but what occurs here affects us all," says WBFF (Channel 45) newsman Jeff Barnd.

And in "Dying Rainforests: A Clear Cut Mistake," he offers a useful, elementary primer on the complex processes by which the cutting of trees in Brazil threatens the quality of life throughout the world.

The half-hour special, at 8 tonight, results from the Fox 45 News decision in June to send anchorman Barnd and cameraman Scott Livingston to Rio de Janeiro to cover the Earth Summit, the unprecedented gathering of nations concerned about environmental problems. No other local station staffed the meeting.

The team also spent five days on the Amazon reporting upon the clear-cutting issue. And while no 30-minute report can hope to do more than summarize such a huge interrelationship of factors, "Dying Rainforests" does so in straightforward fashion.

Viewers learn that one-third of all the Earth's oxygen is produced by trees in the rain forest, and that the area includes the greatest diversity of animal and plant life on the planet.

In fact, says Mr. Barnd, science has yet to enumerate all the species existing in the lush tropical area. Thus destruction of the habitat may mean "we are destroying species that have not even been discovered yet."

The report also finds a local angle by a visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where scientists carefully monitor the shrinking of the rain forest, via satellite surveys.

Fox 45 News also took the opportunity to interview former president Jimmy Carter on the Earth Summit topic, when he visited Baltimore this summer in connection with the Habitat for Humanity project in the Sandtown neighborhood.

"This particular administration has been a disaster," in terms of environmental leadership in the world, Mr. Carter says succinctly, regarding the U.S. refusal to sign a bio-diversity pact at the Rio summit.

We see the expected footage of jungle greenery, and sequences showing the subsistence lifestyles of river-dwelling native cultures. The latter, unfortunately, are conveyed with that idealized in-harmony-with-nature admiration common in too much U.S. reporting in the Third World. The show is not remotely an anthropological study, for the true cultural diversity of the area is little seen.

Particularly stunning, however, is the first scene of the city of Manaus, which rises abruptly up out of the dense jungle as a shocking symbol of modernity vs. nature.

Mark Pimentel, director of Fox 45 News, says the documentary may soon find a life beyond tonight's special airing.

"Our purpose was partly educational," he says. Thus the station has begun discussions with local school systems to make the documentary available as a teaching tool, perhaps with accompanying study guide.

'Dying Rainforests'

When: Tonight at 8.

Channel: WBFF (Channel 45).

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