It’s bad enough when you see the map; the shrinking before our eyes “Before” and “After” shaded areas depicting the remaining stands of old growth Redwood trees. It’s worse when these shaded splotches become real, the scarred hillsides left behind a mute testimonial to the brutally efficient practice of clear-cut logging. Most nauseating of all, however, is the shortsighted, selfish, and sheer, unadulterated individual and corporate greed responsible for turning thousands of acres of pristine wilderness into a muddy No Man’s land in a matter of days. This is the focus of Holiday Rose Phelan’s scathing and devastating documentary “The Last Stand: Ancient Redwoods and the Bottom Line.”
Phelan’s film chronicles the destruction of Northern California’s Coastal Redwoods, the tallest and oldest living things on Earth. Its main target is the Pacific Lumber company; a once-proud family-owned outfit that practiced a sustainable harvest practice, planting as many trees as it extracted from the woods. That all changed when the company was acquired by Charles Hurvitz’ Maxxam Corporation in a hostile takeover powered by infamous junk bond king Michæl Milken and his company Drexel Burnham Lambert. Under Hurvitz’ grubby paws, Pacific Lumber began clear-cutting for the first time in its history, leaving in its wake huge, lunar landscapes of dangerous, naked topsoil.
Rallying to their battle stations, environmental groups such as Earth First! and the Sierra Club, as well as a grassroots effort called the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) began years of protests and litigation in their still unresolved battle to prevent Pacific Lumber from logging what little is left.
“The Last Stand” draws on a wide variety of diverse interviews to hammer home its point, supplemented by powerful video clips and stills. If you consider yourself an environmentalist, then this film will definitely be preaching to the converted…although it’s always useful to gain more knowledge and insight into the mind of the enemy.
The people who need to see “The Last Stand” are those who aren’t automatically allies of the environmental movement. This film is undoubtedly one-sided and biased as all get out. Yet, maybe having the issue drilled through them in such a graphic, heavy handed method as this is exactly what the golf course loving, pro-development yuppies out there need to see.
Memo to new Interior Secretary Gail Norton: Go see “The Last Stand!” Maybe it’ll make the foolishness of such resource mismanagement sink in once and for all.