BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 21 Mar '19

Through education and connection with nature, everyone can learn to love forests and be more conscious of their vital role

Today (21 March) is the International Day of Forests (IDF) – a day, selected by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forest.

On each International Day of Forests, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.

Forests sustain life

Over 2 billion people rely on forests; shelter, livelihoods, water, food and fuel security all directly or indirectly involve forests. Some are obvious – such as fruits, paper and wood from trees – but others, including by-products that go into everyday items like medicines, cosmetics and detergents, are less so. Forests will be more important than ever as the world population climbs to 8.5 billion by 2030.

Many different human settlements, including 60 million indigenous people, rely on forests for their livelihoods, and 300 million people live in forests. They provide jobs for more than 13 million people across the world. Beyond humans, forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

We are losing our forests

Between 1990 and 2015, the world lost around 129 million ha of forest, an area the size of South Africa. When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us.

After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon. They provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare.

Forests absorb harmful greenhouse gases that produce climate change. In tropical forests alone, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass.

They provide clean water for drinking, bathing and other household needs, while also protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing the amount of erosion and chemicals that reach waterways.

Forests also provide food and medicine, and serve as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls.


Forest education

This year the International Day of Forests promotes education to Learn to Love Forests. It underscores the importance of education at all levels in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation. Healthy forests mean healthy, resilient communities and prosperous economies.

Helping children to connect with nature creates future generations conscious of the benefits of trees and forests and the need to manage them sustainably.

For some children, forests are a direct source of food, wood and shelter, and part of their everyday lives. Other children can discover forests in classrooms and forest schools, by spending guided time in forests and urban parks, or by learning about trees growing in cities and gardens.

By investing in forestry education at all levels, countries can help ensure there are scientists, policy makers, foresters and local communities working to halt deforestation and restore degraded landscapes. In turn, healthy forests will help us to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example by supporting the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities and conserving biodiversity.