21st century tree saving

1) A Fundamental Shift through community empowerment: In the rural Philippines, as well as in landscapes in western Africa there is a baton that is passed from house to house, family to family. When the Baton is placed in the care of the family, the protection of the community forest is entrusted to that family. If a chainsaw or an ax is heard in the hills above the village that family must investigate, and if necessary intervene. In these scenarios the forests belong to the people and the people are educated to the point that they know how important it is to protect their forests.

2) Satellite Technology: There was a time when we had a very limited sense of how much forest destruction was going on in the world. But in recent years with GIS / Google Earth / and other satellite technologies governments and activists have an unprecedented awareness of what’s going on in the woods. What was once annual estimates of deforestation in the Amazon has this year turned into seasonal estimates, and just this month it appears as though we will now be receiving monthly estimates. As is often the case in increasingly real-time reporting on deforestation, we’re finding that rate of forest loss is happening at a much quicker pace than previously thought possible.

3) Communication Technology: Forest Activists who’s forest need saving can now use a computer to let the world know of it (see: “13 ways”). Yet still to this day the most powerful communication technology in the world is word of mouth. People are way more likely to listen to what friends and family take the time to tell them compared to what everyone else is telling them. If you want to help please make your day to day life part of spreading the word about specific forest issues that are going on in the world.

4) Militarization of Forest Defense: Use of the military to patrol and defend forests is becoming increasingly necessary as most timber smugglers and permit holders use violence to expand the reach of their enterprise. Brazil this year launched a military operation known as ‘Arc of Fire’ to shutdown illegal logging. In Indonesia leaders have used the military as proof that they are serious about limiting deforestation. In India where forest guards were established decades ago, a current crisis of under-funded and ill-equipped forest guards has led to a decline in forest cover. Similar impoverished circumstances face forest guards in Africa. What’s worse is that too often the military is bribed to go after one logging competitor in a way that favors another logger. There are also many bribery and forgery services offered by regulatory / military forces in order to help get illegal logs through road checkpoints.

5) After the forest has been destroyed most often the powerful influences that are obsessed with making money depart and leave behind barren empty landscapes. Too often these landscapes become agriculture land, or housing developments. But sometimes the land is simply left to its own recourse until merchantable trees have naturally regrown and the loggers return. This window of opportunity is where the greatest difference can be made to help remnant forests repopulate the recovering landscape. It’s also when new forest protection oriented policies and cultures are most easily established.

6) Replanting whole ecosystems instead of just mono crops is essential. In Costa Rica and Indonesia experiments have been done where barren land has been re-planted with over a thousand different kinds of locally gathered seeds and cuttings. A half decade into these studies they have realized an unprecedented and unpredicted accelerated recovery. A myriad of creatures once thought lost from these areas are rapidly recolonizing and multiplying. This work like many other studies indicate that the greater diversity, the great the fecundity, the greater the resiliency to most all degrading influences.

7) Diversity consciousness: There is resilience and strength in diversity. Getting humans back out into nature, digging up invasive weeds to help native species recolonize the land… it’s not much different than gardening in your own back yard. Many groups such as the United States’ National Wildlife Federation help homeowners learn what they can do in their back yard to improve wildlife habitat. And Implicit in encouraging ecological diversity is an abundance of diverse plantings that can be observed, weeded and pruned in order to benefit as many unique species as possible. While this is way too labor intensive and impractical on a landscape level, what we learn from it is essential to creating cultures and economies that actually allow natural ecological recovery. More to the point diversity-based restoration methods are a new paradigm, which are an essential learning process that will get us away from the mono-crop mentality of modern day ‘eco-conscious’ / FSC-style forestry.

8) Re-visioning new cultures / values: In the future we will be far more knowledgeable and well read on forest protection adn restoration history. Also in the future we will have far greater means by which to give voice to the people who really know first hand what is with industrial-oriented logging practices. Just as “Earth Day” is integrated into today’s culture, so too will far more important annual events one day be integrated into the world’s many cultures. If we are successful, it we ignite ecologically beneficial cultural memes, if we find ways to captures people’s imagination: the earth can be rich and abundant again. But we have to seek out new ways to show that trees are more valuable alive instead of dead. And it’s about more than just saving trees, but the web of life that the world’s trees help sustain.