DG’s Column

Sharing positive views about forests and trees on the International Day of Forests

CIFOR's Director General urges further discussion of the benefits humans receive from forests.
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This  International Day of Forests, consider the human benefits of sustainable forestry.
This International Day of Forests, consider the human benefits of sustainable forestry.

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Today is the first annual International Day of Forests. From 1972 until now, 21 March was celebrated as World Forestry Day, but last year the UN General Assembly upgraded it to an official UN Observance Day.

There are currently 115 international days proclaimed by the UN, and 21 March is a particularly popular date. It is also World Poetry Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the International Day of Nowruz, and World Down Syndrome Day. In addition, 2013 is the international year for Water Cooperation as well as for Quinoa, and we are in the international decades of Biodiversity, Action for Road Safety, Eradication of Colonialism, among others. UN protocol is not always easy to follow, but an app has been developed to help us keep track of the Observances.

At CIFOR, we have looked for a fresh angle for today’s celebrations. As a forestry organization with an intensive communications program, we already focus on raising awareness every day. It seems inappropriate to use this day for even more promotion of our activities. Further, it appears to me that most people are already aware of the forests. However, the common perception is that forests are under threat and need to be protected from human destruction. Deforestation, illegal logging, forest fires, loss of biodiversity, droughts – the list of problems is long and well known. Our increasingly urbane society is bombarded by such negative messages about forests and the campaigns may not be entirely balanced.

With this in mind, I suggest we use the International Day of Forests to share positive views about forests and trees: Forests provide income, food and energy for billions of people. They accumulate a big portion of the greenhouse gases we emit. Trees make landscapes stable, productive and aesthetic. Planted forests protect soils and provide renewable materials for the green economy. Forests preserve biodiversity and provide for recreation and shelter.

So use this day to think positively about forests. Personally, I will celebrate by planting another tree (Shorea Guiso, a dipterocarp with many uses for its wood, including furniture and flooringon CIFOR’s Bogor campus.

I would like to leave you with one further suggestion. Use today to connect the forests to the landscape and to our wider society and needs. According to the UN resolution, today is not just about forests, but about the entire landscape. We are asked by the General Assembly to “celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.” Don’t limit your focus to the forest as such or you will miss the bigger picture.

Happy International Day of Forests!

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  • The forests we should be paying attention to on International Day of Forests, are endemic forests of insular habitats. The Kew Gardens is placing great emphasis on saving and rehabilitating this forest type. As for continental forest types, emphasis needs to be place on the dry tropical forests. In Central America, only 2% of the original forest cover of this forest type still exist. So much of it has been lost to coffee plantations and cattle ranching. Guanacaste National Park in Costa Rica, is one of its last habitats.

  • Delighted to see inclusion of trees in the International Day of Forests. There are over 8,700 tree species listed on the IUCN Red List as threatened with extinction (that’s seven times the number of threatened birds, and many tree species remain unassessed. Forest conservation and sustainable management will not necessarily ensure the incredible diversity of trees – and the benefits that they bring – survives into the future, more targeted action is needed in many cases. The Global Trees Campaign (www.globaltrees.org)- a joint initiative of Fauna & Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International – works to increase the profile of trees as threatened species and to encourage and support action to conserve them.

  • Since our inception in 1989, Just Forests has proclaimed the importance of forests to our economic, social, environmental, cultural and spiritual well-being. We do this is a number of hands-on and interactive ways-such as our Wood of Life exhibition-which travels around Ireland on a constant basis http://www.justforests.org/events?type=schedule&view=all

    While I agree with Peter Holmgren’s comments we must not loose track of the fact that there are many unscrupulous people out there that do not. I refer to the report “Green Carbon, Black trade” released by UNEP and INTERPOL in September 2012. It reveals that contrary to recent beliefs, the international illegal timber trade persists unabated at an annual value of 30 billion USD or more; the global timber scam has just taken on new forms as illegal logging syndicates employ increasingly sophisticated methods of log laundering and tax fraud. Illegal timber trade is so pervasive that it could offset the impact of the REDD scheme. You can view the fukk report here http://www.justforests.org/news/green-carbon-black-trade-report

  • Since our inception in 1989, Just Forests has proclaimed the importance of forests to our economic, social, environmental, cultural and spiritual well-being. We do this is a number of hands-on and interactive ways-such as our Wood of Life exhibition-which travels around Ireland on a constant basis http://www.justforests.org/events?type=schedule&view=all

    While I agree with Peter Holmgren’s comments we must not loose track of the fact that there are many unscrupulous people out there that do not. I refer to the report “Green Carbon, Black trade” released by UNEP and INTERPOL in September 2012. It reveals that contrary to recent beliefs, the international illegal timber trade persists unabated at an annual value of 30 billion USD or more; the global timber scam has just taken on new forms as illegal logging syndicates employ increasingly sophisticated methods of log laundering and tax fraud. Illegal timber trade is so pervasive that it could offset the impact of the REDD scheme. You can view the full report here http://www.justforests.org/news/green-carbon-black-trade-report