'Our desire for goods is at the heart of this': Why Bruce Parry wants us all to live more sustainably

In his new documentary, the explorer joins Borneo’s Penan tribe to see what the world’s indigenous people can teach us about our own survival and that of the planet

Jonathan Watts

Bruce Parry has made a career out of going native. The Royal Marine-turned-celebrity explorer may not yet be as fully-fledged an institution as David Attenborough, but if the British public were to nominate anyone to paddle up a crocodile-infested creek, tuck into a wriggling dinner or liberate their mind with shamanistic drugs, Parry would surely rank near the top.

So it is worthy of note that this affable and – until now – mainstream film-maker has been forced to part ways with the BBC for his latest project, a documentary that stresses environmental defence begins on the home front.

Due for release from Friday, Tawai: A Voice From the Forest is an empathetic, sumptuously filmed homage to indigenous groups, particularly the Penan, a Bornean community that is held up by anthropologists as a model of a peaceful and egalitarian society.

Parry does not just laud their virtues. He also says we – the viewers in Europe, the US and other wealthy nations – should learn from them and consider changing our consumption patterns and lifestyle values. Instead of blaming environmental destruction on foreign criminals or corrupt governments, Parry asks the viewer to consider their own responsibility.

In an interview with the Guardian, he speculates this may have been why his proposal was rejected by BBC commissioning editors.

“We’re not just challenging individual identity but national and cultural identity and all pillars of society. The things I learned from my time with indigenous people put me in a state where I wanted to shout at society,” he says. “When I pitched this to the BBC, I didn’t do such a good job of hiding that and they were understandably put off.”

In A Voice From the Forest, Parry travels the world, living with indigenous peoples, delving deeper then ever on a journey into the heart of our collective human conscience.

Indigenous groups and protected reserves are under more pressure than ever, whether it is pollution of rivers, illegal logging of forests, encroachment by miners or infrastructure development. “They are all struggling,” Parry says. “There is nowhere with a pristine, isolated ecosystem.”

In Brazil, police are currently investigating reports of a massacre of 10 members of an “uncontacted” Amazonian tribe. The news does not surprise Parry. “It’s sad,” he says, reflecting on his own encounters with indigenous groups who get caught up in a rush for minerals. “The riches in those places turn them into a Wild West. There are so many things happening in that part of the world. It’s rough.”

While this film does not engage directly with the subject of environmental defenders, he says future work is likely to do so. “Clearly there are people who are giving their lives to raise awareness, to lobby and do direct action. I fully support that.”

However, he believes it is essential to take action on the home front rather than point fingers at others.

Parry has previously spent time with illegal loggers, miners and cocaine producers. “Most are people just trying to get by,” he said. Simply blaming them for environmental destruction misses the broader point.

 Publicada originalmente em: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/29/bruce-parry-interview-borneo-penan-documentary

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