Go to http://www.churchforest.com to find out how you can help get this film made.
A portion of all money raised for this film will be used for stone walls around the forests, local labor, hygiene installations to insure that the church biodiversity has appropriate stewardship, gates, and a truly sustainable approach.
The Ethiopia of ancient times was verdant, flourishing country, frequented by the Egyptians and Romans for its natural resources and for the knowledge of its inhabitants. Ethiopia was also one of the earliest countries to adopt Christianity as its national religion, and in 500 AD Coptic churches sprouted up among the woodland.
Modern-day Ethiopia has been largely deforested for agricultural needs and to harvest building materials. When looking at Ethiopia from an aerial vantage point, however, one can make out thousands of tiny, wooded sanctuaries amidst the sprawling, arid farmlands – vestiges of the ancient Ethiopian forest. In the center of each one of these green oases lies a church.
These Ethiopian Othodox Christian churches take it as one of their fundamental tenets to preserve these ‘church forests,’ and the parishioners consider them to be reconstructions of the Garden of Eden. Some of these churches, and likewise the sacred forests that surround them, are 1500 years old. These sites are of enormous cultural and historical significance and also play a key role in the ecology of Ethiopia – as food sources, water cycling sources, seed banks, and sole habitats for the majority of the entire region’s biodiversity. However, these church forests are rapidly disappearing, with some estimates predicting that they will vanish entirely within 5 years.
Enter Meg Lowman, affectionately called the mother of canopy research as one of the first scientists to explore this “eighth continent.” For 30 years, she has designed hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration to solve the mysteries of the world’s forests. She has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications, and her first book, “Life in the Treetops,” received a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.
This January, Meg will lead a team of researchers and conservationists to Ethiopia on a mission to work hand in hand with the local priests and parishioners to create and enact simple sustainable measures to forever preserve these sacred cultural and environmental havens. We will document the places, the people who live there, and the visitors who have come to help. This film will raise awareness about the church forests, the plight they are in, as well as highlight an unlikely story of collaboration between scientific and religious communities.