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We Are All Forest Dependent People

Published: 29 April 2014

In 1958 Charles David Keeling began collecting carbon dioxide samples that became the basis for the first graph describing the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Keeling Curve. This is the most known story. The less known story is that the Keeling Curve also shows the universal importance of forests. Carbon levels—despite constantly increasing—fluctuate according to a seasonal cycle: they decrease in spring and summer in the northern hemisphere, when the leaves from plants absorb CO2 with photosynthesis, and increase again in fall and winter.

Forests are at the centre of our planet’s future, both in terms of climate change mitigation and as an important base for building sustainable development. Technology has allowed the creation of new materials and composites out of wood pulp and fibres at market prices and with a more sustainable production cycle. This has resulted in job increases in the forestry sector and in an expansion of the green economy based on forestry products: from building and heating, to fashion and bioplastics. In this sense, even if we do not directly inhabit the forest, we still are—and we will increasingly become—forest dependent people.

Despite the universality and importance of this message for both climate change mitigation and social and economic development, forest issues are still overlooked in national and international policy debates. To give this message a sharper edge, from 23 to 25 March 2014, the ECE region’s Forest Communicators Network met in Berlin, under the auspices of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, to discuss and share best practices on how to reach a larger audience within a digital age.

In addition to the expertise of the members of the Forest Communicators Network, the organizers of the three-day meeting looked outside the forestry sector to gather fresh ideas and learn about innovative methods for reaching out more effectively. With this in mind, an invitation to participate was extended to the person responsible for TEDx Berlin, Mr Stephen Balzer, and to Mr David Abbas, Public Information Officer at UNFCCC.

Their messages were clear: there is a need to create a link between the issue at stake and the audience, and it is also necessary to show the relationship between forests and other sectors. This can be achieved by “giving a face” to the message that is communicated, by telling a story that people can relate to, and by illustrating the impact that forest and forest products have on jobs, the economy and sustainable development.

“It’s only by recognizing that we are all forest dependent people that we can assure that forest issues rise in the local and international political agenda,” said Mr Ingwald Gschwandtl, Chairperson and Leader of the Forest Communicators Network. And he concluded, “We need simpler and sharper messages to maximise our outreach. This three-day meeting was a great opportunity to get in contact with lots of new ideas and concepts. Now it is up to us”.

To have more information about the Forest Communicators Network, and more generally about the UNECE/FAO Teams of Specialists, please contact, Paolo Cravero: paolo.cravero@unece.org


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