For many, forests are a place to walk, a space to spend time in peace, an opportunity to immerse oneself in nature. For some, they are reserves of fauna, flora and wood which they can utilize. For others, they are a home, a part of history, a part of culture. Still for others, they are simply an obstacle placed before that immense source of profit represented by the land they occupy.
The world’s forests are an irreplaceable treasure of biodiversity – 80% of terrestrial species find their home there. When used sustainably, they have immense economic value with forest products valued at over -$400 billion providing 60 million jobs in rural communities. 25% of modern medicines are derived from forest plants. 1.6. billion people depend on forests for livelihood.
At the Greenaccord Forum, we have asked ourselves how many, in reality, appreciate the critical, life-giving functions forests perform within both the local and the global ecosystems.
How many know of the vital role forests play in the global water cycle and their role in regulating water quality? 40% of the world’s oxygen is provided by forests, storing 66% of global carbon and covering 30% of the terrestrial land surface.
Forests are all too often seen as places from which to plunder goods. How many of us, before inflicting damage directly or indirectly on the forests of the world, think about the fundamental rights of the people who have lived there since time immemorial; how many of us think about the crucial environmental services that forests perform, including air purification, regulation of the world’s water regime, soil conservation, absorption of greenhouse gasses, opportunities for ecotourism? We wonder, in short, how many people are truly aware of the essential role forests play in maintaining life on our planet.
We are silent, helpless, witnessing the shameful destruction of forests through mining forest fires, deforestation, the overexploitation of resources, pollution of aquifers the predatory logic of monetary profit at any cost, simply as an end in itself. Is this really sustainable?
We believe that large-scale and urgent work is needed to awaken public awareness on these issues by the world’s media.
There is a gap between policies, research and practice. We need a holistic and coordinated approach between policy makers, researchers, journalists and people implementing the projects on the ground to safeguard nature.
In these past days journalists, scientists, activists, and other partners have interacted on the need for change in both thought and action to safeguard forests effectively.
We would also like to express a secular thank you and our gratefulness to Pope Francis for convening, next October, a Synod for the Pan-Amazonian region. We trust that such an event can help to awaken the world’s attention to forests and their inhabitants. We also hope that, thanks to the Synod, there will be an increase in the world’s awareness of the necessity of conserving our forests everywhere.