What Do You Mean They Almost Called It the 'Tropical Moist Forest'

Circa 1850: The ‘Ma-Robert’, a paddle steamer on the Zambesi river.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty

I have never considered myself someone who, without exception, finds the word “moist” gross. I don’t object to the use of the word—if something is moist, there’s nothing wrong with calling it moist—but I think I’ve finally come across one use of the word “moist” that should be struck from the public record and outlawed for all eternity.

In a very informative and fun piece over at Vox today, writer Dan Nosowitz reports on the history of the “Save the Rainforest” movement, jumpstarted by environmentalists with a PR plan to show people how great the rainforest is, only to eventually be co-opted by corporations wanting to sell rainforest-themed burgers and TV shows and shirts and ice cream.

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The most alarming part of this piece, however, may be what they almost called the biosphere behind the movement. From Vox, emphasis mine:

[Herbert Chao] Gunther’s ad campaigns were totally unlike existing commercial campaigns. Instead of catchy, brief, pithy slogans, Rainforest Action Network included multi-page, multi-thousand-word stories of life in the rainforest...You had to get inside a nascent activist’s head, take up space in there with imagery and facts about this wondrous place...

They also very intentionally did not use the word “jungle.” At the time, there were a few different terms being tossed around as potential replacements for that stigmatized word. “We were interacting with a lot of the seminal scientists of the time,” says Hayes. “‘Tropical Moist Forest’ was what they wanted to call it.” Gunther and RAN landed on “tropical rainforest” as their term of choice...

Save the Tropical Moist Forest. The Tropical Moist Forest Cafe. The Amazon Tropical Moist Forest is burning. Nope, fuck nope.

Vox also reported in the piece why the term “jungle” was avoided, writing that the term “conjured Joseph Conrad-type images of savagery and danger. Nobody in the United States or Europe seemed to really care much about the destruction of what was seen as a hostile landscape of blood-sucking insects, man-eating beasts, malaria, and cannibals. (These are, obviously, inaccurate descriptions.)”

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The not-so-surprising manifestation of racism in this environmentalist movement aside, the Tropical Moist Forest was the best that scientists could come up with? Absolutely not. At least one rainforest crisis was averted early on.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan