International Day of Forests: A Path to Recovery and Well-Being
Forests are an integral part of the planet’s eco-system, protecting wildlife and people from the changing climates. Forests are one of the biggest storehouses of carbon, second only to oceans, locking away harmful greenhouse gases, and keeping global warming under control. Not only this, but approximately 1.6 billion people and 80% of all land animals directly depend on forests to live, to provide food, shelter, livelihoods and medicines.
Deforestation is where forests are destroyed, often set on fire, to clear space for crops such as soya for animal feed, or palm oil for many household products. These crops cannot provide the biodiversity of a forest, and are uninhabitable for most wildlife. Deforestation releases between 12-20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading contributor to climate change. Furthermore, it forces wildlife out of their natural environment and into human inhabited spaces, meaning an increase in the potential for new diseases to enter the human population like - yes you guessed it - Covid-19!
Despite these facts, deforestation continues to increase, with 13 million hectares of forest destroyed annually. To put that into perspective, a single hectare is 10.000 square metres, roughly the size of an international rugby pitch. Now imagine 13 million rugby fields. It is hard to fathom that amount of forest and its wildlife disappearing, and can make the deforestation crisis feel far removed from us, but it is happening right now as you read this blog.
So what can you do to help?
It can feel overwhelming to think of how we as individuals can help protect the forests. On the 21st March 2021 it is International Day of Forests and the theme is ‘Forest Restoration: A Path to Recovery and Well-Being’ - a perfect way to learn, teach and get involved! Here are just a few ways to get involved and make a difference:
- Plant a tree – It may sound like a small thing but planting a tree, organising a tree planting event or supporting organisations which plant trees can be a great way to get people talking and also to help increase the number of trees and woodland where you live. Take a look at BBC Countryfile’s Plant Britain project to keep a record of all the trees you have planted, connect with other people interested in tree planting, and find other useful resources: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000pzlx
- Sign petitions – An easy way to get involved is to add your name to petitions campaigning for an end to deforestation. You can find many different petitions on websites such as Change.org.
- Write to your MP – Get your voice heard and express just how much the environment means to you, and how much it would mean for you MP to fight for such issues.
- Share articles and news – Education is key to change, and many people don’t realise the catastrophic effects of deforestation. Sharing articles and news on your social media or amongst your friends and family is a great way to increase awareness.
- Organise and attend events/activities – Activities such as symposiums and talks, fundraising events for conservation charities or mass tree plantings can be fun, educational and highly effective ways to get people involved in protecting our forests. Whether it is through a local school, organisation or even the council, it can be hugely beneficial and a great way to meet like minded people.
- Review what you consume – It may not feel like it, but as a consumer we hold a lot of power. If we don't like the way something is sourced or made, and refuse to buy it until this has been remedied then the big companies simply have to change the way they do things. Check your usual household purchases and research how the materials are sourced to make them, is it sustainable or is it contributing to deforestation?
However you decide to celebrate International Day of Forests, make sure you spread the word by using the hashtag #IntlForestDay and email any photos of events you attend to IDF@fao.org so they can be added to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ gallery of events happening all over the world!