I have just finished watching one of the most interesting and thought-provoking television programmes that I have seen for quite a long time. 'I bought a rainforest' is a three-part BBC2 documentary which follows a year in the life of wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James as he comes to terms with his purchase of a few hundred acres of Peruvian rain forest.
His reason for sinking £6000 of his own money into this small part of Amazonia (which borders a protected national park) is to safeguard the land from logging and to stop the illegal transportation of felled wood from the nearby park through it.
In each episode we accompany him as he visits 'his' land and hear what his thoughts are about the wildlife within it, the local people who still use it and what he plans to do about protecting it. Things are complicated from day one. Day two dawns no more brighter. As time goes on, Charlie quickly comes to the conclusion that he had absolutely no idea about the realities of living in the region - even though he has visited the Amazon on countless occasions to pursue his career. "Those bastards who chop down the trees are not bastards after all - they are some of the nicest people I've ever met" is his summing up after time spent with illegal loggers, gold prospectors and cattle ranchers.
It is an emotional journey for Mr Hamilton James, and unless you are made of hard stuff, the viewer too. One of his later quotes is most revealing about his journey - "At the start of this journey 100% of my photography was of wildlife. Now 95% of it is of people." This 'project' changed the way he thought about the problems of protecting Amazonia. It certainly made me sit up and reappraise how I thought. It will do the same to you...
You can still see this marvellous series on i-Player.