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Forests: Unlikely Hero of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The theme this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which promises hyper-connectivity and technological breakthroughs. But will a faster, busier, more urban world simply sidestep the world’s wild places and natural systems?

The answer: it must not. Nature, including forests, is more important to this revolution than the most cutting-edge technologies. Healthy ecosystems are critical to provision of the food, water, energy and many other services that a growing human population needs to thrive and prosper equitably, no matter how tech-savvy it becomes. Technology could, however, help run our economies in a way that allows us to decouple human development from environmental degradation – an essential step to secure natural systems and our future prosperity and well-being.

Despite their low-tech appearance, forests have some pretty sophisticated operating systems – and if you think you’d be lost without your smartphone, try to imagine a world without forests. Oxygen production, carbon sequestration, a stable climate, rainfall, water purification, provision of timber, fibres, food, fuel and medicines… let’s see Siri do all that. And developments in the pipeline promise even greater demand on forests – tripling the current harvest by 2050 to supply wood for new fuels, electronic semi-conductors and clothing fibres. This in addition to increased of production of key commodities like rubber, soy, palm oil, beef and sugar, which are already key drivers of deforestation.

© WWF-US / Ricardo LisboaThe Uatumã Biological Reserve in the state of Amazonas in Brazil. © WWF-US / Ricardo Lisboa

On one hand, the forest products industry has made great strides toward sustainability: better logging practices, strong legislative and private sector efforts to keep illegal wood out of supply chains, and growing demand for certified sustainable timber. The pulp and paper industry, with few exceptions, no longer converts natural forests to plantations – in fact, some companies are helping to restore natural forests alongside plantations.

On the other hand, the scale and pace of change is not adequate. Forests are under pressure like never before with unabated deforestation. And between the landmark Paris agreement on climate change and the worst-ever Indonesian forest fires, 2015 highlighted the stark contrast between commitment and implementation.

The CDP report on deforestation released ahead of Davos captures this contradiction perfectly. For example, over 90 per cent of the palm oil market commits to zero deforestation, but only 20 per cent is actually certified. And 80 per cent of timber companies have committed to sustainable forestry, but just over 10 per cent of the world’s forests are actually certified.

Two of the latest global satellite analyses, which are more accurate than self-reported data, identified an increase in deforestation, particularly in tropical regions. The bottom line is that we are NOT curbing deforestation. Forests are undervalued for the services they provide to society when they are destroyed for cash crops. We need to recognize and enforce the balance between production and protection, and scale up the more efficient, sustainable methods of production we’ve seen pay social, economic and environmental dividends.

Large areas of forest have been restored alongside plantations as part of a “mosaic landscape.” ©Stora EnsoLarge areas of forest have been restored alongside plantations as part of a mosaic landscape. ©Stora Enso

Poor landscape planning, corrupt governance and disempowered local communities weigh heavily against achieving a science-based approach to forest management. Yet the science does exist to help us prioritize high conservation value and high carbon forests for protection. We need our markets and our policies to properly value the ecosystem services provided by natural forests for climate stability and for industries, agriculture and indigenous people.

With a growing population putting pressure on a planet already pushed past its ecological limits, success will depend on how intelligently we design and manage a mosaic world where areas for agriculture, industry, mining, infrastructure and cities coexist with natural habitats. Is there really room for all of this? Yes – let’s not forget there is the great opportunity to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of degraded land to productive, natural, indigenous forest. This is one piece of the mosaic. Technology can help us visualize, monitor and maximize the potential of these multi-use landscapes. The rest requires a revolutionary approach to managing and valuing natural resources, including effective, transparent governance focusing on integrated, inclusive land-use planning.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be the springboard for this change in mindset. We have already seen unprecedented commitments to a universal sustainable development agenda and global climate deal. Healthy forests can underpin this promised transition, if companies seize the moment to translate the rhetoric of “deforestation-free” into real change.

Marco Lambertini is Director General of WWF International. 

©WWF©WWF

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Comments


  • Tin

    How can we live without trees, water, animals, plants and nature? Forests contain the essence of life. In the forest comes the natural air filter, through the trees which make oxygen. I agree that the forests will be the hero towards the revolution. We need to take care of it, it’s where we started.

  • Martin Sibulo

    Nature, specifically the forests are very important for the people. We get foods, clothes, things that we enjoy, that can make us comfortable like the chairs and even our own bed, it is from the trees from the forests. There are so many resources we can get from the forest that’s why we need to protect them. As our world is developing they need to destroy forests for the buildings and other infrastructures, which is helpful in a few ways like tourism, but destructive in many ways. Companies and other establishments is doing their best to replace what they consumed and destroyed, by making artificial environment and planting many trees in there. Those projects are very helpful for the conservation of our forests.

  • Jp Sia

    Our environment is our habitat. Nature can live without us. Just like past years ago, earth’s environment is very clean, livable, and very peaceful. Our environment today is not the same as the way it was. Our environment is the source of food, clothes, air, water, and also our habitats. How can we live without any of this things? We’re just like tiny mites living in the top of the head. Destroying the our environment so that we can get our needs. We need to preserve and protect our environment so that in the future, we can still get some resources provided by our oen envirnoment. God created the earth’s environment so that we can live on it and protect it. Not to destroy and abuse it.

  • Shaina Vivo

    Everything in this world are all important. One of this is our nature. God created it for us. He created it first before creating humans, us. In order to have habitat, to have food that we can get from. We need to protect the environment particularly the forests, the seas and everything. We should give importance on what we have today. All of us should take care of our nature. Don’t be like anyone who does bad things that could cause harm against our nature. We know and aware of our world today, there’s a climate change and our environment is not that clean as before because of the people different doings. So be a one who’ll help in saving our nature and not a one who will destroy it.

  • Brian Paul Marquez

    Trees are our main source of everything. It is one of the most important things in our everyday life; it protects us from flash floods; a piece of it can turn into something really cool like furnitures; it gives us food that can satisfy our hunger. Imagine the world without trees, I bet it would be really dull. The trees are slowly turning into a concrete jungle just like in New York. Why do people kept illegally cutting them if there are posters and advertisements about illegal logging? Nowadays, most of the people doesn’t know the importance of our trees. We need to make a move on protecting our trees. I guess tree planting can be one of the best solutions to restore natural forests. While its still early, let’s encourage everyone to start protecting, start conserving our nature because we cannot live without it and it is for our better future.

  • Jill Prado

    Everything in this world is created for a reason. We may say they’re just trees but they contribute a lot in our everyday life, from the paper we write on to the money we use to pay our expenses. We may not see their worth now but someday we will and we should not wait for the time when it’s gone before we value it. We tend not to see its importance because we’re too distracted. Poor planning, having no self-discipline and greed drive us to abuse the resources we have. Urbanization, Pollution and greenhouse effect are the reasons why our Mother earth is suffering. It’s never not too late to act and now is the right time. But how can a Grade 10 student like us respond to this big issue? Simple. We should start it by ourselves through practicing proper waste segregation, planting trees and joining activities. Our mother nature have given us all we need. Now is our time to give back and save her.

  • Erika Nicole Lopez

    Did you know that almost 6% of our rainforest remains and this can only last for the next 40 years. So before you waste paper and other natural resources, think again. Our world is aging and the time will come when we have no more to use. Of course we should not let that happen. Before it’s too late, let’s help each other in saving the nature. Of course, we don’t want our future generation to suffer and we don’t want our future children to grow up in a polluted and damaged environment because of us being undisciplined. We should be aware and disciplined enough in using our resources. If we still want to inhale fresh air in the future, let us now work for a cleaner environment because everyday, our the world gets damaged and damaged. Everyday counts and now is the right time to save it.

  • Nester Neil Canua

    Cultural practices that roughly equate to the establishment and maintenance of reserved areas for animals date back to antiquity, with King Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka establishing one of the world’s earliest wildlife sanctuaries in the 3rd century BC. Early reservations often had a religious underpinning, such as the ‘evil forest’ areas of West Africa which were forbidden to humans, who were threatened with spiritual attack if they went there. Sacred areas taboo from human entry to fishing and hunting are known by many ancient cultures worldwide.
    The world’s first modern nature reserve was established in 1821 by the naturalist and explorer Charles Waterton around his estate in Walton Hall, West Yorkshire. He spent ÂŁ9000 on the construction of a 3 mile long, 9 ft tall wall to enclose his park from poachers.He tried to encourage birdlife by planting trees and hollowing out trunks for owls to nest in.

  • Nikko Dungca

    We need to protect our environment because forest is more important than the human living things.
    if we protect our environment we protect our future also our children in the future we also preserved our trees And gain more creativity in our forest. Did you know trees prevent the flood if you dont know watch the ondoy Survivor and yolanda so that will you realize how much important is it. In the forest we get everything to survive like foods shelter peace and ecofriendly there is no smart phones gadgets that will you captured everything you saw you will learn how to survive in forest so that you realize the forest is so important. thankyouu

  • John Paul D. Navarro

    It is our responsibility to protect and conserve our forest for so many reasons. We need to protect it for our future use and needs too. Lets just think of our next generations that may

  • Kristof Umali

    Computers and Technology doesn’t give us life, nature does. Yes it does make our lives easier, but what’s the point of an easy life when you could only spend it for a short time. The world is making big breakthroughs in technology. We are evolving as fast as we could imagine. But evolution in a way of taking out what is natural and allowing technology to take over will cause it to end dramatically. A said above, Siri cannot release oxygen for you to breathe one day. It doesn’t grow natural fruits and vegetables for us to take. We shouldn’t be blinded with the things new to us. We should open our eyes on what was here then. Humans have found a way to lived their lives without technology. Let me rephrase that, humans have found a way to lived their lives even without electricity. But same thing doesn’t go with technology. We cannot live without nature and only technology. I’m not saying that the people wants to completely remove nature from the picture but that is where this is going right? God gave us this world to take care of, but we are the ones killing it. The air and water is polluted, factories and buildings reign the land and habitats are being destroyed causing extinction of some animals since the early rise of technology. Governments are wasting natural land to build skyscrapers. Open your eyes, we might not even see the sun turn to a red giant one day. Act now.

  • France Dalawampu

    We all know that our world is at risk. The changes or the movements should start from us because we’re the only one who will benefit from this,from our environment. We are the one who’ll take care the environment that God gave us. The changes starts with us.There are ways to fight this. Protect large trees, trees are very important to us. It helps to lessen the air pollution, floods. We must protect all the things we can see in our surroundings, everything is important. Protect,maintain,restore,conserve them all,we can save the environment if we’re going to help each other and we should start it now. Not only the environment but also the things lives here. Forests are important because we can almost get there our needs everyday. It has many purpose so that we should be disciplined ourselves on how will we take care it.

  • Edmark Charlatan

    We All know that our world we need a change to make it better we need plant more trees.We are one who can make a change . The trees are helping us to stop the pollution in our country and we need to protect our trees.We need to plant more trees because this is where we get our basic needs like papers,chairs etc. We need to stop the illegal loggers for cutting trees without replacing the trees they’ve cut.we must lessen the air pollution and floods in our country.We must restore the all of them . Forest are we need to have a good country.We need to take care of our forest.

  • Joseph Manansala

    Anywhere you look, the things around you are made by wood , or basically it is made from tree . we must take care of it and know it’s value. Every tree that’s being cut should be replace with another one or more than that. the trees is a big thing in our daily lives. Trees give us air to breath. Trees give us paper that we use everyday. Trees help when there are flood it sucks up the water. and therefore we should take care of it. Another thing it is given by God. and that’s another reason why we should take care of it.

  • Kristoffer Palomares

    In our world today we see lesser trees in the forest due to logging and it is used as our furnitures. Not even furnitures it is used in different ways it is used in our every day lives we should take care of our trees. Because it gives us shelter and food we need it to breathe oxygen it stops flood . What is the sense of changing if we keep destroying our forests . Instead of changing why don’t we just plant trees so in that way we can restore the beauty of nature. And we must not permit illegal logging because it destroys our nature. That’s why God created nature so we can get our personal needs in life and that’s why God created us to be its guardians who protects and watches over His majestic creation.

  • Nikko Esporlas

    In our world today we see lesser trees in the forest due to logging and it is used as our furnitures. Not even furnitures it is used in different ways it is used in our every day lives we should take care of our trees. Because it gives us shelter and food we need it to breathe oxygen it stops flood . What is the sense of changing if we keep destroying our forests . Instead of changing why don’t we just plant trees so in that way we can restore the beauty of nature. And we must not permit illegal logging because it destroys our nature. That’s why God created nature so we can get our personal needs in life and that’s why God created us to be its guardians who protects and watches over His majestic creation.

  • dk mpk

    We should save forests as a protection against floods and famines. Forests prevent floods and reduce soil erosion by regulating the flow of water.

  • Jerson Flores

    We should save forests as a protection against floods and famines. Forests prevent floods and reduce soil erosion by regulating the flow of water.