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Are foresters following Santa Claus?

From the Antalya Province to the Arctic Circle

- Are Foresters Following Santa Claus?

By Mr. Heikki Granholm

Chair of the Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry, Co-Chair of Metsä2013

According to legend, Bishop Nicholas was born in the city of Patara in Asia Minor in 270, and lived in Myra, a town today called Demre in the Antalya Province of Turkey. This fourth-century bishop had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of persons who left them out for him. It was this Nicholas who inspired the modern idea of Santa Claus.

In this same region, Antalya, in 2011, the Turkish Government hosted a major meeting of the UNECE Timber Committee and FAO European Forestry Commission "Orman 2011". And from 9 to 13 December this year, the next joint session of the Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry and the European Forestry Commission (also named ‘Metsä2013’, metsä meaning forest in Finnish) will be hosted by the Government of Finland, in the town of Rovaniemi, currently considered to be the official hometown of Santa Claus. 

Are foresters following in the footsteps of Santa Claus? Do foresters and the forest sector have anything else in common with Nicholas/Santa Claus?  

Of course, we do! 

We may not realize it, but forests provide us with important “gifts” for our everyday lives. They sequester carbon, protect the soil, conserve biodiversity, have aesthetic and recreational value, and they give us beautiful renewable products and services. 

In many countries, as in Finland, forest-related activities have generated significant economic revenues—putting coins into many people's shoes. Yet, the forest sector seems to be a rather secretive gift-giver. Few people outside our sector know about the multiple miracles we generate. That’s why we need to boost communication about the many roles and functions of sustainably managed forests and a green bio-based economy – and it’s also why we’re celebrating Europe’s Forests throughout Europe this December.

Nicholas was also called “Nicholas the Wonderworker”. We all know that to work in today's highly complex and demanding environment we need to be real wonderworkers. The Action Plan for the Forest Sector in a Green Economy and the Integrated Programme of Work for 2014 - 2017, both to be adopted at the meeting in Rovaniemi, will provide a solid base for joint action throughout the region. Both these strategic papers place special emphasis on the human dimension, including decent green jobs in the forest sector. The forest sector is on the move, transforming itself into something new. Now we, the wonderworkers, will act and make the change happen!

What will be on our wish list for the end of year? peace? money? health? affection? Such wishes also have a great deal to do with forests. Close and intense collaboration through joint activities contribute to the peace efforts; forests provide significant revenues and positive health impacts; and isn’t it great fun to be in a forest with a friend, even in winter? 

Let’s all be good as we might meet Santa Claus at the Arctic Circle! Nicholas' ancient message was not about receiving gifts but about sharing what we have with our fellow beings. We invite you to visit us, to see and feel the snow, darkness, silence and the northern lights in Rovaniemi in the north of Finland this coming December.

For more information about Metsä2013, please click here .


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013