How important are trees to the socioeconomic well-being of our cities? A new 60-minute high-definition Louisiana Public Broadcasting documentary called Return to the Forest Where We Live challenges viewers to re-evaluate the critical importance of investing in healthy urban ecosystems in their communities. It premiered in 2008.
Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominee Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the narrator for the documentary. Vardalos wrote and starred in one of the biggest independent movies of all time. Her work in My Big Fat Greek Wedding earned her an Academy Award nominee for writing, a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for acting. Her other work includes Connie and Carla opposite Toni Collette, My Life in Ruins with Richard Dreyfuss and her directorial debut I Hate Valentine’s Day.
Return to the Forest Where We Live includes a look at the devastation of the urban forests in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Katrina. Prior to the storm, New Orleans was one of the most forested cities in the country. More than 70% of the trees in the Crescent City were damaged by the storm and the flooding that followed and one-fifth of the half million trees planted in the city’s public parks and other public spaces were destroyed.
“We were a beautiful city. In fact, there is one particular street, Paris Avenue, that was loaded with 50-year-old magnolias. And when you ride down Paris Avenue today, it’s just barren. All the magnolias died as a result of the flood water.” Ann Macdonald, the director of the New Orleans Department of Parks and Parkways said.
“Just imagine what it would be like to live in a city without trees. If you lived in a forested city and all of a sudden all of the trees were gone, what a difference in that, just a sense of place,” David Nowak, a project leader with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Service said.
Other featured cities include Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“What’s happened in Charlotte is like the Joni Mitchell song, you killed paradise and put up a parking lot,” said Attorney Rick Roti, the Chair of the Charlotte Public Tree Fund. “That may sound humorous, that’s in actuality what has happened. It’s not only unique to Charlotte; it is happening all over our region, it is happening all over the country.”
Return to the Forest Where We Live was produced and directed by LPB’s Liz Barnes and written by Charles E. Richard (Louisiana: A History). LPB’s Tika Laudun (Louisiana: A History) served as Senior Producer/Project Director.
Return to the Forest Where We Live Photograph Courtesy of Jill W. Lang
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