Rainforests Discussions

After people assembled as agreed the previous week for discussions on rainforests and were all seated in the school hall comfortably, Susie said that they would also discuss all other related items.

Most importantly, they would discuss how to save the rainforests and what action they should take.

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Many more people had joined those, who had met earlier in Richard's house the previous week. Dave and Mary were also present and Mary was looking much better than how she was the previous week and was quite cheerful.

Note: To find out what was wrong with Mary the previous week,

click here to go to the Home Page

People started looking around curiously as about 20 kids dressed as different types of rainforest animals and birds like:

  • Jaguar,
  • Howler Monkey,
  • Sloth,
  • Gorilla,
  • Toucan and
  • Parrot


  • moved around the seated people with small baskets containing various fruits such as:

  • avocados,
  • grapefruits,
  • guavas,
  • durians,
  • mangoes,
  • oranges,
  • bananas,
  • pineapples,
  • papayas and
  • passion fruits.


  • Most of the kids being in the age group of 4 to 6 years were shy, while some of them were a little bolder and went round in groups of twos or threes each.

    They asked those present in their cuddly and adorable ascents, which only such kids can manage:

    "[Want] gapes? (grapefruits),

    goova? (guava),

    oleng?" (orange) and so on.

    It was an occasion for the young parents of the kids to witness the scene with pride and joy. When their kids passed by their sides, they hugged them tightly and kissed them passionately.

    Kathy said, "These fruits are available in the Amazon rainforest. Many of them have been brought to our country and cultivated in US and other continental American countries.

    If the rainforests get destroyed forever, we may not see them later. So, enjoy the fruits before the kids' little play begins and before they disappear from the earth forever".



    A

    short time later, the kids' play began.

    Start of Play

    Scene 1

    Kathy was holding a board with the word "Cave" hand written on it.

    The kid dressed as a female Wolf said, to the kid dressed as her male companion Wolf, "I want to eat fresh fish today.

    Why don't you get me one?"

    He said, "OK I will go out to the river and get some for you".

    Scene 2

    Two kids dressed as Otters were standing near Susie holding a board with the word "River" hand written on it.

    After she moved away, Otter 1 said, "I am hungry. I am looking for a fish. What about you?"

    Otter 2 said, "I am also hungry. A fish will be good, but shall we get one today?"

    They stood there patiently.

    Soon one other kid dressed as a "fish" entered the scene making waves with his hands showing that the fish was "swimming" in the water. Since he was well built, he appeared to be a real "big fish".

    Otter 1 shouted, "Look! a big fish. I will catch it" and "entering" the water, he caught hold of the "tail" of the fish.

    But the "big fish" was strong and "swam" away, dragging Otter 1 after him.

    "Come and help me," Otter 1 shouted to his friend. "This great fish will be enough for both of us!"

    So Otter 2 "went" into the water. The two together were able to "bring" the fish to "land".

    Otter 1 said, "Let us divide the fish into two parts."

    Otter 2 said, "I want the half with the head on,"

    Otter 1 said, "No. You cannot have that half. That is mine. You take the tail."

    They started quarreling. The Wolf heard the Otters and he went up to them.

    Seeing the Wolf, the Otters said: "Mr. Wolf! Please help us; this fish was caught by both of us together. We cannot agree about dividing him.

    Will you please divide him for us?"

    The Wolf "cut off" the "tail" and gave it to Otter 1, while giving the "head" to Otter 2. He took the large middle part for himself, saying to them, "You can eat the head and the tail without quarreling now."

    He ran away with the "body" of the fish. The Otters stood and looked at each other. They thought that the Wolf had run off with the best part of the fish.

    The Wolf was pleased and said to himself, as he ran toward his home, "Now I have fresh fish for my wife."

    Scene 3 (Cave)

    His mate, seeing him coming, came to meet him, saying: "How did you get the fish? You cannot swim. Why is the fish so odd looking? Where are its head and tail?"

    He told her of the quarrel of the Otters. "I took the fish as my fees for settling their quarrel. Now let us enjoy the fish"

    End of Play.

    (Based on centuries old Jataka Tales from India).


    Kathy and Susie said, "This little play sums up the position of the status of the tropical rainforests."

    "You may be wondering why we used kids to explain the position of the rainforests. The last time when we mentioned that we are likely to lose all rainforests within a matter of 30 to 40 years from now, some of you said that it is a long time and so why fear now itself.

    But, just look at these kids. They are in the age group of 4 to 9 years now. 30 to 40 years from today, they will be in their mid-to-late 30's and 40's.

    These cute little bundles of joy may not understand the situation today but imagine their position after these many years. As their parents will you like to see them suffering?"

    Puzzled, the elders asked Kathy and Susie what suffering would befall them.

    "You can say that our life itself depends on rainforests.

  • Rainforests supply oxygen since they retain carbon dioxide and release oxygen to the atmosphere.


  • If rainforests are destroyed the supply of oxygen will stop and greenhouse gas effect will take place due to the non-absorption of carbon dioxide.


    This will cause Climate Changes not only in the area of the rainforests, which are destroyed but also elsewhere.

  • Rainforests are also a source of water to the world since they act as a watershed.

  • So, if rainforests are destroyed, they may cause Flooding or Droughts.



    Rainforests are a source of many fruits and nuts, coffee, spices, rubber, sandalwood, camphor, palm oil, orchids to name only a few. Most importantly, many of the cancer drugs are made from medicinal plants of the rainforests.

    But we should understand that we have only scratched the surface as far as research on medicinal plants are concerned. Scientists say that a lot of research needs to be done in this area to produce many drugs to fight diseases. Many more plant species are yet to identified in the rainforests.

    As our life span increases and we live longer and longer as compared to the earlier generations, we will need more and many different medicines especially in our old age. Think of what will happen to these kids in their old age if we destroy the rainforests with impunity now."

    A frown crossed the faces of many.

    Kathy continued, "But people think of only timber or wood when they hear the word "forest" or "rainforests", but as we saw above, rainforests have much more importance".

    Due to such insufficient understanding, people are not aware of the cause of the damage done to the world by the industrialized nations.

    Since it involves the future lives of the kids, we decided to present the rainforests discussions in the form of a little play.

    Kathy said, "The "Wolf" represents the industrialized nations or the big corporations and the "Otters" represent the developing nations, where the tropical rainforests are situated.

    The industrialized nations and the big corporations decimate the rainforests of the developing nations for their own profits unmindful of the consequences to the developing nations themselves or to the future generations:

    These cute little kids represent the future generation.

    The developing nations also know about the consequences but are quite helpless in the matter, since their governments have to find solutions to several problems facing them:

  • Huge populations,

  • low literacy rate,

  • low or no income for survival,

  • poor foreign exchange reserves and so on.

  • So the government and the political leaders are under immense pressures from various quarters due to such problems - just like the Otters were today in our little play.

    Hence the big corporations of the industrialized nations are allowed to "log" the rainforests for timber, in return for which the developing nations get a pittance, while the big corporations make huge profits for themselves.

    The rainforests get razed quickly. After the rainforests are razed, the land becomes useless for agricultural use, since the land is shallow with no nutrients.

    If the land has lots of wealth underneath such as oil, gold, iron ore, aluminium, copper or other minerals, the local governments may permit the big corporations to exploit the same so that they can again get some income in the process, while the big corporations again make huge profits.

    If no wealth is available this way, the land may be used for infrastructure developments for the people to live there in an effort to earn a decent income.

    Or, the land may be given to ranchers for cattle grazing, so that the cattle can be slaughtered at the appropriate time and exported as red meat to the industrialized nations, again fetching the developing nations some small economic gains in return.

    Or if nothing is possible, then the only alternative is to abandon the land altogether and go elsewhere, in search of survival.

    This way, if the big corporations find that there is nothing left of the rainforests in one developing country, they will target some other developing nations, where rainforests are available in plenty and reap huge profits from them the same way.

    So whichever way you look at it, the industrialized countries and the big corporations of the western world are big gainers from the tropical rainforests and not the nations where they are located.

    Predictably, this raised angry protests from many persons, who got up from their seats and simultaneously started saying:

    "You are painting the industrialized nations as the villains and the developing nations as the innocents."

    "We cannot accept it just like that. It cannot be just one sided as you present it. Rainforests are important no doubt, but the industrialists must be definitely contributing their shares for the development of the developing nations."

    Kathy and Susie looked at each other then Susie said, after suppressing a smile; "We thought that you might object to that kind of a statement from us.

    So we have asked the "Wolf" to defend himself."

    Here comes the "Wolf" they announced, following which, the kid who played the "Wolf" in the little play and still in the Wolf's make up, walked in wearing a coat and a tie representing the "Chairman" of a big corporate company, about to meet the shareholders for the presentation of the company's annual report to them.

    Kathy said that they (Susie and herself) will play the role of journalists and the audience could play the role of the shareholders of the company.

    This was so unexpected that the angry reaction of the persons melted after some moments of hesitation and was replaced by huge amusement and laughter. There was also applause from some persons.

    But before they could proceed further, there was a little commotion and the people turned towards the source of the noise to find out what was causing it.

    A group of little kids were shouting slogans in high-pitched voices, holding thin white paper boards, on which the slogans they were shouting were hand written as follows:

      "Save The Rainforests"

    "Stop Illegal Logging"

    "Stop Greenhouse Effect"

    "Reduce Red Meat Consumption"

    "Use Car Pools"

    "Stop Energy Wastage"
     


    They were also simultaneously pushing their free hands up and down while shouting slogans.

    When they found out the reason,

    the audience doubled up in laughter,

    since the cute little kids (in the age group of 4 to 6 years) could not even hold the boards properly, could not mouth the slogans correctly and there was little correlation between their slogan shouting and their hand movements.

    The "Chairman" assured them that he would "look into" their grievances following which, the slogan shouting stopped and to which the amused audience responded with claps.

    The "Chairman" then looked around the audience and started making his statement as follows:

    "I welcome all of you for the presentation of the annual report of our company. The report has been in your hands for the past few days and I take the same as read by you."

    He paused and looked around again for reactions from anybody.

    Expectedly somebody asked, "What reports?"

    Lowering his voice and looking downwards so as to avoid eye contact with the audience, he said, "The statement given earlier by Susie namely that industrialized countries are decimating the rainforests of the developing countries and all the associated news items."

    Raising his voice somewhat he continued, "I will clarify that the wording "decimating" is unfortunate. We are using the raw materials only as required and are not decimating the rainforests.

    "So in that case, you say that your company is over harvesting the rainforests, if you do not wish to use the word "decimate"?" some member from the audience asked him with a smile.

    He replied, after allowing himself also a little smile, "All of you saw the play before the start of this meeting, wherein the Otters were unable to decide for themselves how to work out a satisfactory solution for their problem".

    In our business, we are in the same situation. The developing nations and the under developed nations are puzzled in many circumstances as how to solve their problems. Hence we are needed in helping to solve them".

    "We have to carry out the research, spend huge amounts of money, give them (developing nations with the rainforests) financial aid in certain cases and also teach them various aspects of the timber trade, so that they can earn their income."

    "We cannot carry out such activities out of charity, right?"

    Again he smiled and continued, "We have to seek the raw materials at the lowest cost to the company. In return for our activities mentioned above in helping the rainforest nations, we get timber and other raw materials from them. For this we are blamed that we are over harvesting the rainforests. That is not fair".

    Applause greeted the statement. Appreciative smiles and glances were exchanged among various persons in the audience on the "Chairman's" reply.

    Susie got up and asked him, "But Mr. Chairman, you industrialists are not transparent in your dealings. You are over harvesting the rainforests and are not doing anything to replace the forests for them to sustain".

    "That is not true, we are planting new trees and creating forests so that the rainforests could be sustained", replied the "Chairman".

    Kathy said, "Well that is not the correct position. Planting a few trees cannot replicate a rainforest. It takes 100's of years to form and breed the kind of biodiversity of plants, animals, birds, insects and all the other resources. OK, Let it pass for the time being".

    Susie said, "But what about your taking advantage of the low prices with which you are able to purchase your raw material (timber) and the various concessions you get from the rainforest nations?

    The rainforest nations are losing huge revenues; while big businesses like you, make huge profits.

    Don't you agree that businesses should follow fair trade policies?"

    The "Chairman" was somewhat uncomfortable, but said, "The industries are expected to operate under the prevailing conditions only and should make the best use of the available resources, so that they can deliver the goods satisfactorily to their customers and profitably for the shareholders.

    Susie continued, "It is also being mentioned that your accounting practices are questionable, you show inflated raw material prices as having been paid to your suppliers, but actually you pay low prices to them. Similarly, you are showing low selling prices, while actually get higher prices".

    "What do you have to say for that?"

    He replied, "Our accounts are properly audited by reputed auditors and hence your question is very surprising for me".

    "You saw the "protesters" a little while ago. What do you say for the messages displayed by them?"

    The "Chairman" smiled briefly even though he was once again uncomfortable but managed to put on a "brave face" and said,

    "Yes, from time to time, we get jolts from protesters like this, but we continue our efforts to understand their points of view and try to incorporate positive actions while trying to delete the negatives".

    Appreciative smiles appeared on the faces of a few members of the audience.

    It was quite clear that whether they supported the actions of the Corporates or not, the audience were increasingly getting impressed with the performance of the "Chairman" as he answered one question after the other.

    Kathy took up the thread and continued, "Corporations operate in free market, where the use of new technology is taken for granted, say mechanical sawing machines to cut the trees at great speeds and bull dozers to level the grounds very quickly as compared to human operations and so on.

    They always claim that this is essential for the development of the economy. But do you take enough precautions to see that such usage of new technologies do not cause damage to the rainforests and ecology in general?"

    He replied with a frown, "Certainly".

    Susie continued, "International institutions, non government organizations and conservationists have made many suggestions:

  • They are making recommendations to the corporations to use only such methods which will help in sustainable forestry while simultaneously providing income and profit for the corporations, so that the future generation's needs are safeguarded.


  • They suggest that you should support only those of your raw material suppliers who follow responsible forest management practices, so that the rainforest nations will also get their fair share of the revenues.


  • They suggest that the rainforests must be protected.


  • What is your reply for all this?"

    He said, "We are using Certified raw materials only, so that the customers can be satisfied about our concern for safeguarding the rainforests".

    Susie said, "That is not very convincing".

    "Why do you say that?" asked the "Chairman".

    Susie continued, "Various critics have also pointed out that corporations lobby with governments and other international bodies putting their points of view strongly and influencing them so that they can continue to operate their businesses without any kinds of safe guards in place, ignoring several recommendations made by them. What do you have to say for that?"

    The "Chairman" lost his "cool" at this point and said, "No comments" and walked out in a huff.

    After a moment's hesitation, the audience asked, "What happened?"

    Some persons were grinning, while some others were in serious thought.

    Kathy said, "That is the end of another short play by us".

    Surprised they asked, "Another play?"

    Kathy suppressing a smile said, "Yes" and continued, "the "Chairman" himself suggested it.

    Let me call him in again".

    So out went she and brought back a smiling "Chairman", who had removed his make up now and was in casuals, sans coat, tie and wolf make up. The same "Chairman" who staged a "walk out" only a few minutes previously!

    Some one asked him, "Hey! You had walked out a little while ago in a huff.

    We thought that you were very much upset by the questioning. We thought that you did not have any answers and so you went out in protest.

    So, what's up?"

    The "Chairman" had a hearty laugh and said, "It was all part of our carefully rehearsed play to make the subject a little more interesting for you, that is all".

    "Which one you would have preferred? A long statement of bare rainforest facts only or a short play bringing out the essential facts as much as possible?" he asked him with a "mischievous" wink.

    Some members of the audience said, "Very clever".

    Susie said, "The "Chairman" himself made a suggestion to present it this way and after some discussions, we tried it ourselves. It came out satisfactorily".

    A man in his early forties said, "I am not trying to find fault with this idea. The point I want to bring out is that a young lad like him should not have been burdened with a heavy subject like this".

    Kathy and Susie had a hearty laugh.

    Kathy said, "Burdened? Well, many of you may not know that he is a child prodigy with an excellent memory. He is also a very good actor.

    He understood the complex subject very quickly and all of you witnessed how he executed all the actions in the play - the hesitations, the avoidance of eye contact with you at the beginning, the occasional fumbling, being "uncomfortable" in front of the "protesters", the frown and the final "walk out".

    But the confidence he was exuding, that was entirely his and there was no need to teach him that".

    They hugged him affectionately and kissed him.

    "What?" gasped the audience and again went into an appreciative applause.

    "Let us now formally introduce him to you all. His name is Patrick Simpson and there are his parents, Alex and Maggie Simpson".

    A couple in their late thirties stood up, beaming proudly and waving to the others.

    Kathy continued, "Today is his 9th birthday and we have an excellent birthday cake for him for his fantastic performance.

    Before the people could start singing "Happy birthday to you", Susie said, "One moment please. Before he cuts his cake, we all have to take a joint undertaking to save the rainforests.

    Ready?"

    While some members from the audience immediately got up and shouted "Ready" cheerfully and started clapping in anticipation, many others were looking at each other for guidance - some were smiling, some others were somewhat undecided and so on.

    But the man in his early forties, who only a little while earlier had raised his concern for "subjecting" a young lad to a "burdensome" subject, had stood up and was indulging in slow hand clapping.

    He said, "Well, well, well", with a sarcastic smile crossing his face.

    "I was waiting for you all to say that

  • the world has been losing a football ground every second, or that
  • so many million hectares were being destroyed every year in the rainforest nations or that
  • America is the villain who consumes 25% of the entire world's red meat production, blah, blah, blah".

  • "Why did you not make a mention of such oft repeated items?" he asked them with a mock smile again.



    Kathy said with a smile "For the same reason you mentioned - since they were repeated very often everywhere, we did not want to repeat it here also".

    He continued, "Well, so you have a child prodigy with an excellent memory, who is also an excellent actor! right?", twisting his facial expressions so as to show as if he was in awe of this "wonder kid"

    - an expression which brought smiles on the face of a few persons in the audience, but some others were clearly irritated by his behavior and manner.

    "So both of you (meaning Kathy & Susie) want to show that it was "Child's Play" on your part as far as presenting a complex subject such as Rainforests, Timber Trade and the deforestation indulged in by the heartless Corporates, right?"

    Unfazed, Kathy said, again with a confident smile, "We did not mean anything like that".

    "As we said at the beginning, we wanted to highlight the position of our kids in the future, in the event of the total destruction of the rainforests. What preventive actions all of us can take and so on. That's all".

    "It is a complex subject and so we cannot discuss all the aspects in a single sitting. That is precisely the reason, why we wanted to present it in a breezy way".

    Such back and forth dialogues for and against rainforests continued between the man and Kathy and Susie for a while before Susie asked him "Just what do you wish to say?"

    What was his reply?

    Was he some kind of a "villain" spoiling the evening for all of them gathered in the school hall or did he have anything useful to say to them?


    To find out click this link (opens a new window) :  Opinions

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