Forests Supporting Our Lives Today
Forests and Our Health
Forests cover about 31% of the Earth’s land area. They are also called “the lungs of the earth” because they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Just recently, we celebrated International Forest Day, and the theme was “Forests and Health. This week, we would like to consider the current state of forests and their impact on us.
According to the 2020 report released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the world’s forests will decrease by approximately 178 million hectares over the 30 years from 1990 to 2020. This is equivalent to about five times the land area of Japan. Although increases and decreases and factors vary by region, commercial logging, wildfires, and agricultural land use are the main causes of deforestation.
What are the possible impacts on us as the world’s forests shrink? One is the supply of water resources. Forests serve as a filter to produce clean water from rain. About 75% of freshwater available for drinking comes through forest filters, and if forests continue to decline, it will become more difficult to secure safe drinking water.
Forests also serve as a safety net against natural disasters such as typhoons and floods. With climate change likely to increase natural disasters, sustainably managed and protected forests will mean improved health and safety for all.
At first glance, it may seem that there is a distance between forest issues and our lives, but thinking about sustainable forests is also linked to thinking about our health.
Who will protect the forest?
It is said that the forests are being deforested at a tremendous rate, even at this time losing an area equivalent to a soccer court in two seconds. We must protect our forests for our livelihoods. It is a phrase we have all heard at one time or another, and it is certainly true.
But what exactly will be the impact on our lives, how far into the future will it be, and what can we do about it? It is surprising and difficult to know when you think about it.
There are several reasons why forests are being cut down, but the main reason is land clearing for food production such as meat, soybeans, and palm oil. And forest loss and damage is responsible for about 10% of global warming and is already causing all climate change. It also has a major impact on rainfall patterns, water and soil quality, and flood prevention. Not only are we losing the water bounty from our forest dams, we are losing a powerful preventative against disaster. We are strangling ourselves in our quest for a life of abundance.
What we can do now is to rethink our consumption. And surprisingly, it is not a difficult task to review our consumption behavior.
For example, the Rainforest Alliance, a certification to protect forests, known as the frog mark. Many people have probably subconsciously seen it on coffee, chocolate, and other products sold in supermarkets. This not only protects and regenerates forests, but also carries with it the obligation to take responsibility for all labor processes, from the farm to the checkout counter in the supermarket.
The FSC certification on copy paper and paper packaging is another familiar certification that can be obtained for products made from well-managed forests and other low-risk forest products. In addition, Ecosia, a search engine that promotes forest conservation activities, allows users to plant a tree simply by searching for it. Even if you are a chrome user, you can use it without any inconvenience because it can be added as an extension.
It seems that there are unexpected things we can do. Considering that the destruction of forests is not anyone’s fault but the responsibility of people living on the earth, tomorrow’s shopping at the supermarket will be a little different.
The EU has set a goal of planting 3 billion trees by 2030, and its progress is monitored by the European Forest Information System (FISE). According to FISE data, 9.45 million trees have been planted in the 27 EU member states since the target was set. Knowing the current status of forests, setting appropriate targets, and managing progress are the keys to successful tree planting.
Architectural Forest and Carbon Neutral
Wooden construction is attracting attention in Finland, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. According to a study by Aalto University, if 80% of new homes in Europe were built with wood, up to 55 million tons of carbon dioxide could be stored annually. This figure is equivalent to almost half of the annual emissions from Europe’s cement industry. Finland is developing a program to support the use of wood as the primary material in 45% of public buildings by 2025. The architectural forests that are created in cities may become windbreaks that protect the environment.
Forest Restoration and Creativity
URTH’s mission is to plant 1 billion trees by 2032, and the company describes itself as “a community of creators inspired by and working for the Earth. URTH is a business that seeks to create a positive impact on the global environment through a series of creative pursuits, such as travel, art, photography, and more. The company publishes a magazine, offers bags and camera gadgets in its online store, and is working on a project to plant trees after the purchase of its products. The fact that the results of their efforts are shown on their website as actual numbers is a new feature, and even their indirect activities can be seen as somewhat personal.
Green Funeral as an Option
The state of New York in the U.S. has approved composting human remains and returning them to the soil. Cremation is a common practice in the U.S., but there has been growing concern about the environmental impact of the greenhouse gases emitted in this process. With today’s worsening climate change, cremation is expected to attract more and more attention as an option for ending one’s life. The key will be how it is reconciled and accepted with the culture and ethics of each country and individual regarding funerals.