Ten Ways to Preserve Our Forests
First published in Corporate Knights, 2005
"At first I thought I was fighting to save the rubber trees; then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity."
- Chico Mendes, 1944-1988
1. Protect More Ancient Forests
Eight thousand years ago, large areas of the world were covered with ancient forest. As we started to farm, we cut them down for firewood, to build houses, and then to make ships, and charcoal for our growing industries. Today, as the world’s demand for timber and paper continues to grow, almost 80% of the original ancient forests have been logged or degraded, and we are losing an additional 13 million hectares a year, an area the size of Greece. As we lose the forest, we also lose the habitat for many species, including human tribes. We must do whatever we can to protect the remaining ancient forest, both worldwide, and in Canada.
See www.globalforestwatch.org and www.caribounation.org
2. Use Ecoforestry in All Secondary Forests
In Switzerland, they banned clearcut logging centuries ago, when they recognized how it destroyed the soil. Here in Canada, however, clearcutting is still practiced quite widely. In 73 countries around the world, including Canada, a new standard of socially responsible, ecologically sensitive forestry is being embraced by some companies, landowners, and First Nations that protects the forests while their trees are being harvested, and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). With good ecoforestry, the forest will yield more timber of higher commercial value over the long term, while protecting the forest’s ecosystem.
3. Support Canada’s National Forest Strategy
Canada has a roadmap which can hopefully guide our country’s forestry policies, research, and logging practices towards progressive, ecosystem-based forest management. It is called the National Forest Strategy, and has been developed in true Canadian style with input from many stakeholders, including the provinces, environmental groups, and First Nations. Every five years, it is updated and renewed. It has a brand new “best practices” section, most of which happen to have been FSC certified.
See http://nfsc.forest.ca and www.sierraclub.ca/national/programs/biodiversity/forests
4. Ban the Import of Illegally Logged Timber
For every mahogany tree in the tropics that is found and illegally cut down, a bulldozer smashes its way through 60 other trees, all for that lovely shine that looks so good on the furniture when the guests come to visit. Greenpeace estimates that 90% of the timber produced in the Amazon is of illegal origin, fuelled by bribes, corruption, and intimidation. The World Bank estimates that the global trade in illegal timber is worth $15 billion a year, with the US as the largest consumer, spending $3.8 billion a year. One of the solutions is to develop strong federal legislation, banning its import, to discourage illegal logging in forest areas where timber harvesting is strictly prohibited.
5. Use Less Paper and Wood
If you buy it, they will log. The more we buy, the more they log. To reduce our demand, we can avoid using paper napkins, plates, cups, and bags. We can buy paper made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper, or from hemp, and be sure to recycle all our waste paper. We can try to buy FSC certified wood when we need timber, or seek out recycled lumber from house deconstructions. We can remember that wood and paper are not just “stuff”: they are made from the living fabric of our planet, home to a myriad creatures. 11% of the lumber that is cut each year in the US is used to make 400 million wooden pallets, that end up in bonfires or in the landfill. That much timber could build 300,000 houses. We should ban all wood waste from our landfills, and encourage the careful deconstruction of unwanted houses, instead of demolition.
6. Eat Less Beef
North America’s insistent demand for hamburgers, steak, and dog food sends a very clear message to the farmers of Central America, and Brazil, who clear the forest to make way for their cattle ranches. In Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, for every cow, 2.5 acres of forest disappear; for every quarter pound hamburger from a cleared rainforest, fifty-five square feet of rainforest is destroyed. A vegan, who eats no meat, fish, or dairy products, needs 1/6th of an acre for his or her annual food needs. A vegetarian needs half an acre. A meat-eater needs three acres, and increasingly, some of this comes from cleared rainforests. We can scoff our steaks, or we can keep our rainforests; but it seems we can’t have both.
7. Invest in Rainforest Communities
Nearly 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been deforested, and forest scientists are saying that if it reaches a 40% level of deforestation, the forest will enter a process of desertification that is irreversible. The Rainforest Action Network, based in San Francisco, has a “Protect-an-Acre” program which provides funding to help forest peoples gain legal recognition of their territories. It also helps them to develop locally-based economic alternatives, and resist intrusions by the loggers and oil companies, who are after their land. This is a very specific initiative that you can support now, that will have a specific impact.
8. Support the Activists
In 1993, when the BC government announced that it would allow forest companies to log 62% of the forest in Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, there was such an uproar that 12,000 citizens attended a summer long road blockade, and 850 people were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience. The protests worked, though not fully; the government backed off, and endorsed an ecosystem-based approach that has reduced the amount of logging taking place. Without activism, nothing happens. The destructive logging continues, and the world’s forests continue to fall.
Friends of Clayoquot Sound: www.focs.ca
Rainforest Action Network: www.ran.org
Sierra Club: www.sierraclub.ca
9. Act on the Solutions to Global Climate Change
What’s climate change got to do with the forests? Everything, alas. In central British Columbia, the mountain pine beetle is completely out of control, because its larvae are putting on suntan oil in winter, instead of dying. In the Amazon, climate scientists fear that the forest will begin to dry out by 2040, due to changes in ocean temperatures which will alter the normal storm tracks. When the forests can no longer store carbon, we’ve got an even greater climate problem. In other words, if we want to protect the Earth’s forests, we must take climate change extremely seriously, both personally, nationally, and globally.
101 Solutions to Global Climate Change: www.earthfuture.com/stormyweather
10. Act on the Solutions to Global Poverty
Here’s the problem. Injes Juma and his friends are poor, illiterate, and they’ve got families to feed. They live in Malawi, where the forest is full of 30 foot tall masuku trees. A whole tree, if they fell it and cut it into logs, will bring 2,000 kwacha ($18) for sale as firewood or charcoal. “We have no money to raise our families. We have nowhere to run, nothing else to do. So we have to cut the trees to feed our families.” Two thirds of Malawi’s people earn less than a dollar a day. Malawi, like so many developing countries, needs a comprehensive new deal. It needs an end to its $3 billion debt, the repayment of which devours 21% of the government’s income. It needs an end to corruption. It needs land reform, support for local agriculture, microlending schemes, sustainable forest businesses, and all the other initiatives that can make a difference. We can’t turn our backs on countries like Malawi, and expect the forest to survive. It’s all tied together.
Guy Dauncey is the author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change, and President of the BC Sustainable Energy Association. See www.earthfuture.com