Over a hundred years ago, Victorian-era plant hunters traveled to southwest China and brought back “exotic” Chinese plants to the UK. Today, some of those plants are endangered in their native China. A few years back, a group of Scottish scientists re-introduced some species in Sichuan province to try and augment dwindling populations. Now, Chinese conservationists are working to protect them and many others in their native habitat. But how do they do that in a rapidly changing natural environment where warming temperatures and human activity are pushing plants up the mountains at the eastern edge of the Himalayas? And how does the cultural value placed on nature by a rapidly urbanizing population impact their work? To answer these questions, Pushed up the Mountain takes us on a physical and intellectual journey from Scotland to the Chinese-Myanmar border, from the smog-choked streets of Beijing to Taipei’s National Palace Museum, renowned for its Chinese landscape paintings. Along the way, we meet a conservation biologist at one of China’s largest seed banks, a botanist who has devoted her life to protecting rhododendrons, and a scholar studying the tension between China’s historic cultural reverence for nature and its poor environmental record. The result: a profound meditation on the fundamental questions at the heart of conservation work and our species responsibility to protect the natural world.


Director/Producer | Julia Haslett