Wednesday 5 November 2014


I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of the film, Virunga, today.  I would passionately urge everyone to see it.  I have seldom seen such a powerful expression of all that is best and all that is worst in humankind.

The film follows a group of rangers tasked with protecting the land, the plants and creatures of the Congolese National Park, Virunga.  Their job is a dangerous and sometimes deadly one, bringing them into frequent contact with ivory hunters and poachers.  As if this wasn't bad enough the park is watched with hungry eyes by people keen to explore its potential as a mining site for rare and precious minerals and as a possible source of oil.

What is truly of value in this world?  Is it gold?  Is it diamonds?  Is it oil?  Those things are rare certainly.  Without them there are things we would not be able to do.  But many of the uses we put them to serve no purpose other than to indulge our own need for self glorification.

It seems to me that this film confronts one of the great questions of our age.  Our system of value is hideously distorted.  Possibly it has been so since before we became human.   Like all animals we are greedy.  We want to thrive, to succeed, to be rich.  But I believe that we urgently need to ask ourselves, each and every one of us, what those things truly mean.   This is not a new thought.  It is in fact a cliché.  But what does it say about us that we can have known the truth of something for generations and yet still be unable to change it?  

Our current global system is based on a principle of continuous economic growth.  Doesn't the absurdity of that leap out at you when you see it?  How is it possible to continuously grow in a finite space.  It is not.  It is impossible.  And we live in an age where the sheer number of our species is forcing us to recognise this fact.

I do not say that it is wrong to seek to grow.  But where is it possible to grow?  It is possible to grow in our education, our understanding, in the exploration of our universe and our own world, in promoting peace, in friendship, in empathy, in developing skills, in refining craft, in art. Does this sound like a load of hippy bulls**t to you?  Well I tell you this, every single moment that I have valued in my own life has been through one of those things.

There is a point in the film when two men working for the company that wants to explore for oil in the park express their incredulity that anyone could risk their life on behalf of a 'f***ing monkey.'  They cannot believe that anyone would value a gorilla above themselves.  If it is a question of saving a species over having a bigger house, a bigger car, power, influence, well, who in their right mind would choose the gorilla?  I WOULD!  I would give every single barrel of f***ing oil in the world if it meant that we could preserve that species.  What I struggle with is believing that anyone else could think otherwise.

Please do go and see the film and if you are clever, could you please work out how we can fix ourselves because we can't go on as we are much longer!