EDITOR’S COMMENT ISSUE 79
Dangling the dream
Two months is a long time at the moment. When I sat down to pen the comment for the December-January edition of International Forest Industries, the world was a different place.
It was early December and the promise of widespread vaccinations was upon us. No longer did we wake dreading news vaccinations did not work or would cause horrible side-effects. They were safe, they were approved and the logistics for mass roll-outs were being physically put into place.
A handful of small nations in the Middle East looked to be first out of the blocks, though the United Kingdom, home to IFI, could proudly say it had not only delivered the world’s most useable vaccine, but was going to lead the way for developed, high population nations in delivering the jab at scale.
Writing opinion pieces in such an environment can be dangerous. Caught up in the thought of a more ‘normal’ 2021, I waxed lyrical about all the forestry shows myself and my colleagues would attend. The things we would see, the places we would go, the tyres we would kick, the equipment at which we would gape, and the scanning and optimisation technology we would bend our brains around trying to understand.
Predictably, no less than a week after I filed that copy, the science around various COVID-19 mutations was being more widely publicised and discussed. The UK, along with many other nations, was re-entering a more rigorous state of lockdown.
By the New Year in the UK, schools were shut again and in Western Australia – a metaphorical island within the literal island of Australia in terms of COVID-19 – reported its first case in 10 months and promptly locked down for five days.
It seems, alas, 2021 will not be ‘normal’. At least not yet.
But we at IFI, having cried into our beer over January, have regathered our glass-half-full outlook. And why not? There is much to be optimistic about.
Vaccination programs are in full swing in most of the developed world and much of the emerging world. The US and the UK, two nations where COVID-19 has taken a severe toll, look like being among the leaders of the recovery. There are cheaper, if lighter, more accessible versions of vaccines that could limit the impact in poorer nations. There is talk of ‘vaccine passports’, which might not save the 2021 forestry show calendar but shows bureaucrats are thinking of solutions to get us moving again.
More importantly, the bullish projections around what a recovery from the economic disaster of 2020 might look like have persisted. The resilience of many industries has been proven – including wood industries – and they are coiled and ready to spring out as nations reopen.
This reopening will centre on the stimulus packages of the individual governments. These packages are of immense importance economically and politically. Leading the way has been incoming US President Joe Biden, who was busy pitching a $1.9 trillion stimulus arsenal to his contemporaries. The prospect has sent stocks that were already riding high on vaccine success and low interest rates higher still.
At the centre of Biden’s plans and those of other world leaders is responsible construction. That is, building using green materials, renewable materials and with net zero carbon impact. This puts forestry in a wonderful place.
So, while life may not be normal in 2021. While we may miss our forestry shows, again. There is plenty to remain cheerful about if you’re part of the international forestry sector.