Recreational reflections beating around the bush on International Day of Forests
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests (IDF) in a bid to both celebrate and raise awareness of the “importance of all types of forests”.
For someone fortunate enough to live out in the sticks in a mixed biodiverse agricultural and boreal forest landscape in central Sweden, IDF may seem somewhat superfluous, a PR stunt aimed at city folk and urbanites trapped in the concrete glass jungle. People unfortunate enough not to have access to the great (wooded) outdoors and whose experience of it is at best limited and whose understanding of its dynamics including non-monetary benefits perhaps even more so, irrespective of the forest type.
Sadly in that sense, IDF is anything but superfluous and perhaps this year with the theme of “Forest and Energy” it is more needed and timely than ever. Especially with the onslaught of almost mystical attempts to demonise the use of wood for energy, depicting it as being worse for the climate than its fossil counterparts with the assistance of creative accounting and selective cinematic dramaturgy.
That is not to say that wholesale destruction of forests does not take place, they have and they do. Whilst lucky to live in a biodiverse mixed agricultural and boreal forest landscape, it is a cultural landscape shaped by centuries of human activity into what it is today, a mosaic of fields, wetlands with remnants of ancient forest and rolling hills with mixed hardwood and softwood working forests.
A century ago, at the advent of Swedish national forest legislation mandating replanting, it looked very different in terms of the amount of forest cover and its state with extensive cattle grazing and a larger rural population that used wood for energy, home heating and charcoal for the iron and steel industry.
A century from now it will have undoubtedly have changed again. The question is in what way but by recognising and understanding the numerous economic, environmental and social values of forests, of which energy is one, will ensure the benefits of farms and forests for future generations.