Guest post by Nataly Perez Manrique
Welcome to Part Two of our four-part forest documentary series. We’ve scoured the land to bring you a curated list of the best documentaries about forests! Not sure what to watch this weekend? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
A BBC and UC Berkeley study revealed why viewers choose to kick back and tune in to nature documentaries. The reason? Because nature documentaries trigger the release of neurochemicals. They’re involved in feelings of happiness, reducing the stress and anxieties of modern life. With these top four forest restoration documentaries, you’re sure to be humbled and inspired. Sometimes it only takes one passionate and dedicated person to create or restore a forest, and that one person’s work who can change the world.
Since the 1970’s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees to save his island. To date he has singlehandedly planted a forest larger than Central Park, NYC. His forest has transformed what was once a barren wasteland into a lush oasis. Humble yet passionate and philosophical about his work, Payeng takes us on a journey into his incredible forest. Where to watch: Available here.
50 years ago a unique afforestation project (planting trees where there were none before) took root on an eroded desert plateau in Tamil, South India. Today, the lush Auroville forest is an outstanding example of restoration that recreates and preserves a type of tropical forest. The film tells the story of Auroville’s 50-years-young forest through some of the diverse characters who have dedicated their lives to bringing it to life. Where to watch: Available here.
This documentary tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai. Maathai’s simple act of planting trees grew into the Green Belt Movement. Women and girls lead this nationwide movement that safeguards the environment and protects human rights, social justice, and peace. Since its founding in 1977, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 51 million trees. Where to watch: Available here.
A documentary telling the story of Hinewai Nature Reserve in New Zealand and its manager, botanist Hugh Wilson. In 1987 Hugh decided to regenerate farmland into native forest and restore the native biodiversity as much as possible. The local community met the plan with a lot of skepticism. Now Wilson oversees 1500 hectares resplendent in native forest, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow. He has proven without doubt that nature knows best and that he is no fool. Where to watch: Available here.
For more than 15 years ecologist John D. Liu has been working on his worldwide mission to green deserts and to restore biodiversity. In 1995 he saw a local population who turned an area of almost the same size as The Netherlands from a dry, exhausted wasteland into one green oasis. From that moment on, Liu has been travelling all over the world to convince and inspire government leaders, policy-makers, and farmers with his film material and knowledge. Liu diligently spreads the message that restoration of ecosystems is not only possible, but also economically very meaningful. Where to watch: Available on Amazon Prime OR watch the complete film below!
Be sure to check out the others in our 4-part top forest documentaries series:
Nataly Perez Manrique is a Latin immigrant from Peru. She has a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Duke University. She is also an advocate for the eradication of violence against women and the defense of Indigenous peoples’ rights in her home country.