The Really Old Forest
Joy Cowley (editor)
Big & Small, 2015
pbk., 36pp., RRP $A17.95
Told in a series of letters between penpals Nicole in Australia and Jack in England in the mid 80s, this is the story of the preservation of the Millaa Millaa rainforest in Queensland.
Nicole tells Jack about the rainforest and its beauty, as well as its importance to the economy of the local area as a source of timber for furniture, ships and paper as well as the slash-and-burn farmers who want the land to grow crops. But this is the dawning of the ‘green age’ and environmentalists are agitating for the forest to be protected as areas the size of 70 football pitches are being destroyed every minute. Faraway in England, Jack is untouched by the town’s dependence on the trees and he investigates the importance of the forest to the environment rather than the people, telling Nicole of the enduring damage that destruction will cause. He really opens Nicole’s eyes. She wishes she could find a way that the rainforest, the animals and the people could live happily together.
This is a wonderful way to introduce young students to the concept of conservation and how there have to be and can be solutions that are win/win for all the stakeholders, not just humans. In this case the rainforest was added to UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage list so the story can also be a springboard to examining the work and value of this organisation. It could also be the start of a compare and contrast investigation as students study the forest in Nicole’s time and the impact of the UNESCO intervention.
While there is a plethora of books focusing on the characteristics and value of rainforests (and this one has pages of facts at the back), personalising the issues in a series of letters is a way that will immediately engage students in the issue and encourage them to think, discuss and debate. A useful addition to the collection and a great support to the sustainability cross-curriculum priority.