Cry of the Forests: Calling out a climate emergency

June 24, 2021
Cry of the Forests film still. Photo: Cry of the Forests 2020

Environmental film maker, Jane Hammond spoke with Green Left about her new film, Cry of the Forests. She took time out from developing a teaching resource for the film that will be used in schools. 

The film exposes what is happening to Western Australia’s forests in the State’s south west. The area is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots on the planet and the forests are excellent stores of atmospheric carbon.

Yet they are being cut down at the rate of ten football fields every day.

Hammond began her environmental activism at age 14, getting involved in campaigns to save the forests from logging for wood chips. But, like many activists she was lulled into passivity by the promises of the WA Labor government, led by then Premier Geoff Gallop.

Gallop promised a management system in 2001 that would protect old-growth forests, while protecting timber industry jobs. “But logging continued,” Hammond said. 

“We need to protect what is left of all of our forests, not just the areas defined as 'old-growth.'

“If they find just one stump of a felled tree in a two hectare stand of timber they rule out the area as old-growth and use that as an excuse to send in the logging machines. They are knocking down trees with breeding hollows for endangered bird species and causing a lot of damage.”

WA forests are at a “turning point,” said Hammond. “We are facing a climate emergency and forests offer us a simple and cheap way to store carbon. They are already under severe stress from declining rainfall, heat stress and disease. It makes good economic and environmental sense to protect our forests for climate and biodiversity yet we are cutting them down for woodchips, charcoal and firewood.

“Just 15 per cent of the logs cut end up as useable timber, the rest is burned within a few years. 

“Our jarrah forests are also being cleared for the bauxite that lies beneath them, yet this mineral is not rare nor hard to find elsewhere. 

“This isn’t just about WA’s environment, this is part of the struggle around global warming.

"We need to protect our native forests to store and draw down carbon. And we need to be developing more plantations on degraded agricultural land to meet our timber needs into the future and ensure that timber workers can retain their jobs.”

Cry of the Forests was crowd-funded and made in partnership with the WA Forest Alliance. It is narrated by prominent Aboriginal actor Kelton Pell. 

Hammond’s next project is a series of films about natural solutions to climate change. She aims "to explore the things that people and societies can do now to slow climate change ... I want to show things beyond just not taking a disposable coffee cup or riding a bike."

[Cry of the Forests is showing in July at the Luna Leederville and The Backlot as part of the Perth Revelation Film Festival and at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival at Cinema Nova on July 25. The trailer can be seen here, where you can also get involved in the campaign.]

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