________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 12 . . . . February 16, 2001

cover Burns Bog: A Road Runs Through It.

D. DeMille (Director). George Johnson (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
24 min., 15 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 041.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4

Burns Bog takes viewers through four seasons of observations in this 10,000 acre wetland community on the southern edge of Vancouver. Excellent quality photography reveals the high level of biodiversity present in this ancient peat bog surrounded by forest and marsh. The video explores the intrinsic value of the ecosystem in terms of its providing habitat for an abundance of wildlife and specialized vegetation, enhancement of air and water quality, and water retention capabilities. And it addresses the potential for loss of these benefits "to the ultimate detriment of us all" in the face of urban development that is gobbling it up at the rate of "one full acre on every day."

      The fate of Burns Bog was the subject of public protest in 1999 after extensive development was proposed by its private owner and the provincial government. A highway, cranberry farms and a landfill already occupy parts of the site. Peat harvesting was carried on until the 1980s. Clearly, the commercial value of the area is evident. This 25 minute video argues for the preservation of such bogs: "We have the power to save them. All we need is the will."

      The emotional impact of camera closeups of flora and fauna is significant; sensual images of colourful wildflowers, a soundscape of bird calls and soft music, and the beauty of the changing seasons are appealing. Throughout the film, disturbing glimpses of intruding human presence are juxtaposed effectively with these soothing images of nature: the robin tends its nest amid the grumbling of a backhoe uprooting trees and tearing up the ground; the dwindling population of sandhill cranes is set against the snarl of a dirtbike; a departing jet's flight path takes it directly over the quiet bog. The sense of urgency is conveyed by the increasing frequency of these examples of urban encroachment as the film progresses, and with the statement, "Much of what you see here is already gone." The video does a good job of raising awareness of environmental protection issues using this unique peat bog on the doorstep of a major city.

      Included with the video is a brief fact sheet and bibliography of resources, listing websites, books and teaching guides for intermediate students and teachers of biology and environmental science topics. Burns Bog would stimulate discussion in the classroom, and also be suitable for naturalist groups or individuals interested in learning more about the importance of wetlands.


Gillian Richardson, a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction, lives in BC.

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