Go down to the woods
Forests have been high on the environmental agenda recently - as well as being the focus of a current WWF campaign, the UN declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests. It is widely acknowledged that the destruction of forests is a contributory factor in global climate change; trees act as carbon sinks, so their loss increases the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere.
According to the UN, forests support the livelihoods of around 1.6 billion people and the global trade in forestry products is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But in addition to the role forests can play in climate change mitigation and economic wealth, they are also intrinsically linked with human culture around the world. Even in 21st century, in this globalised, urbanised world, for many people there is something about walking into some beautiful woods which is inspiring.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is encouraging the British public to reconnect with forests and woods as part of their campaign 'What Wood You Choose?' The organisation is holding 'Big Forest Picnics' at seven locations around the UK on Saturday 20th August. Locations include the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and Hainault Forest in east London (the full list of locations is available at the WWF website).
The activities on offer vary between locations, but include art and crafts workshops, story-telling and music acts. The over-riding goal of these events is to celebrate forests, and raise awareness of their cultural and natural heritage. The WWF is also asking the public to vote for their favourite forest story via their Facebook page, with choices ranging from 'Robin Hood', 'The Gruffalo' and 'The Jungle Book'. This is a nice touch which highlights the cultural importance of forests and how they have inspired some of Britain's best-loved literature.
The 'What Wood You Choose?' campaign aims to create a responsible timber trade, partly by changing consumer behaviour; if more people appreciate the value of forests and become aware of the impacts of unsustainable forestry it is hoped that they will make choices which are more environmentally friendly. The choice is simple - by purchasing products with the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo on, you can be sure that they are sourced from a sustainably managed forest.
Too often environmental issues can seem confusing, complex and highly technical - a prime example of this is climate change.
Sometimes there seems to be no consensus among politicians, the media and industry, as they all strive to push forward their different agendas. It is the nature of science that there are uncertainties and unknowns, but this can be unconstructive. In contrast, the need to protect forests and woods is indisputable, and this is what makes the WWF campaign so important.
The campaign has an accompanying film which perfectly captures the mystical quality of forests, despite being less than two minutes long. The narration begins- 'as you step into the forest, pause, still yourself... there are trees standing to this day that sheltered our ancestors from the rain as they shared their stories and fires 5000 years ago... walk into a forest today anywhere in the world and share the same quiet awe that others experience. We are connected to forests; we must look after their future.' Couldn't have put it better myself.
For more information on the WWF campagn visit 'What Wood You Choose?'
Top Image Credit: Summer in an oak forest © Mr Smith