Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 21 International Day of Forests: Environmentalism’s Watershed Moment?

Though we already have a lot of “red letter days” commemorating our embattled environment, is the March 21 International Day of Forests the most important of them all especially when it comes to securing a constant supply of safe drinking water?

By: Ringo Bones 

While Earth Hour may have succeeded in its intended environmental mission – i.e. crude oil prices had fallen 70-percent since 2014 – it seems that deforestation seems still like the most ignored issue of our embattled environment. South East Asian palm oil farms had been slashing and burning primeval forests / old-growth forests as if they’re growing out of fashion since the last decade of the 20th Century, it only has been relatively recently that the powers-that-be at the United Nations finally established a resolution to combat the increasing rate of global deforestation.  

The 21st day of March which was designated as The International Day of Forests was established by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2014. Each year since then, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests for the benefit of current and future generations. Countries are encouraged to undertake efforts to organize local, national and international activities involving forests and trees such as tree planting campaigns on March 21 – the International Day of Forests. The Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization, facilitates the implementation of such events in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and international, regional and subregional organizations. International Day of Forests was observed for the very first time on March 21, 2013. 

The catalyst for a “Forest Day” that lead to the establishment of the International Year of Forests started as a casual conversation between two scientists in Oxford, England back in February 2007 who felt that world at large was underestimating the importance of forests in mitigating carbon dioxide emissions and saw a growing need for the latest forestry research and thinking to inform global policy makers and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties negotiators. The two Oxford scientists did not foresee the conference would become one of the most influential global events on forests and climate change today. 

Each year since the 1970s, more than 13 million hectares or 32 million acres of forests are lost – an area roughly the size of England. As the forests vanishes so too are the plant and animal species that they embrace which make up 80 percent of all terrestrial biodiversity. Most importantly, forests play a critical role in mitigating the worst effects of climate change including global warming. Deforestation results in 12 to 18 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – almost equal to the carbon dioxide emissions of the entire global transportation sector. Equally crucial, healthy forests are one of the world’s primary carbon sinks. Today, forests cover more than 30 percent of the world’s land and contain more than 60,000 tree species many of them as yet unidentified and yet to be cataloged by the world’s botanical science community. Forests also provide food, fiber, clean drinking water and medicines for approximately 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people who earn less than 1 US dollars a day – including indigenous peoples with unique cultures. And it has been scientifically proven for decades that rainfall tends to fall on forests and forests are currently the most cost effective way of purifying water in comparison to other man-made means.