By John Burton, WLT Founder CEO
It was with great sadness that the World Land Trust learned of the death of Chris Parsons, on the 8th November 2002.
Christopher Parsons OBE was a staunch supporter of the World Land Trust, and a long-serving Trustee. I had first met him when he was still at the BBC – probably about the time Life on Earth was being made, and our paths crossed from time to time, but it was not until 1988, shortly before the founding of the WLT that I got to know him well. The WildScreen Trust (which Chris was instrumental in establishing) commissioned me to undertake a study of endangered species on film, and the potential for forming an archive of images. The study took nearly a year, during which time I got to know Chris really well – and he was an incredibly inspirational person to work for. And was also a classic example of the adage “if you want to know something, or get something done, ask a busy person”. I have never, ever met anyone who kept schedules like Chris’s at that time. He was establishing what is now @Bristol, as well as developing wildlife films for IMAX – dashing between Canada, USA, Korea and who knows where else. I completed my study, and nearly a decade later Chris was able to see the results, when ARKive was launched. Meanwhile, in 1993 I had asked Chris to join the WLT as a Trustee, which he enthusiastically accepted. And despite his whirlwind of international travel, and trying to raise nearly £100,000,000 for his Bristol projects, he managed to come down to Belize for a meeting of the PFB (Programme for Belize) and also see the areas we were working in. And as always, with his wealth of experience, he was able to give much sound advice, in his amazingly understated way. Last year he arranged for the proceeds of the opening performance of the Bristol Imax cinema, attended by David Bellamy, David Attenborough, and a host of others connected with wildlife films, to go to the World Land Trust.
When introducing Chris overseas, I always introduced him as the Producer of David Attenborough’s Life on Earth, but although this is almost certainly his best known achievement internationally, it completely underestimates the huge variety and range of Chris’s work over the years, right up until his untimely death. Scores of people throughout the world will miss Chris, and we at the Trust will certainly miss his enthusiasm; he always made a particular effort to get to our meetings, which he often chaired. He received the OBE in 1982 for services to Broadcasting, and he was one of the very few Honorary Members of the Linnean Society of London, an award for his services to natural history.