EDITOR’S COMMENT ISSUE 68 APR/MAY 2019
Forest education put first UN drives home the importance of forests to the world on International Day of Forests
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) within the United Nations recently celebrated another International Day of Forests, which each year takes on a fresh theme or campaign.
On March 21, the FAO chose to dedicate its efforts to education and, here at International Forest Industries, we could not be more supportive.
Practically speaking, we have never known more about our forests. The mapping of global forests has long been established and, more recently, how these forests are changing, growing and shrinking has become more accurate, with information delivered in real time.
We understand more about how trees react to climate sensitivities or fauna-related threats, and how we treat the soils in which plantation forests grow with various combinations of nutrients has become a fine art.
At an industrial scale, we use scanning technologies to see into the wood for product quality, which also delivers an unprecedented stockpile of data, while a greater understanding of how wood reacts to heat and chemical treatments can enhance the qualities of wood products.
But this understanding is held by a shrinking number of forestry professionals, while the importance of forests is lost on communities in which individuals find themselves increasingly distanced from the forest.
Children grow up exposed to technologies that take another step away from primary industries each day. Children grow into graduates who see tech industries as exciting and primary industries as dated and of little relevance.
As the FAO points out, this is also in part due to urbanisation as more than half the people on the planet now live in towns and cities. By 2050, that figure is expected to rise to 70%.
“As a global population, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature and lack the awareness and understanding of forests and their benefits,” the organisation said.
The FAO cites the key role forests play in tackling poverty and hunger to mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity as reasons to care more.
“The positive impacts of forests and trees are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – and to our existence on the planet and are also not widely known.”
The FAO has recognised the need to educate the world about the necessity of global forests and therefore their protection: “We first need to raise awareness of young and old, those who make decisions today and those who will tomorrow.”
As both wards of the forest and dependents on its wealth as forestry professionals, we should view support of this campaign as a duty, a necessity and also an opportunity to promote the use of wood in sustainable building practices and carbon neutral energy production.
The FAO is tackling this at the grassroots and focusing on delivering awareness campaigns into our schools the world over, including through excursions into forests to establish that physical connection and appreciation. Though the focus on the young is logical, the FAO is not stopping there, with equivalent programmes in play for all ages.
Where appropriate, forestry professionals should follow suit by not only allowing, but facilitating and advertising opportunities to visit working stands with modern equipment and sawmills with cutting-edge technologies.
“We shouldn’t need to be reminded, but we do – we need to take care of our forests,” the FAO said. “Not only because they are beautiful. Not only because research demonstrates that they make us healthier and happier. We need to take care of our forests so that they can take care of us.
“We will not survive without forests, so learning to love them and to look after our forests is lesson number one in a lifelong learning curve.”