ITF’s 2017 Trees Journal volume 74 is now published! Andy Egan, ITF Chief Executive, introduces the inspiring and thought provoking articles from a our partners.
As I was reading the articles published in this year’s journal I was struck by the diverse approaches communities and organisations are taking to protect and restore forests and to grow trees both to enhance the natural environment and improve livelihoods. Yet running through this diversity is a common thread: a passion and desire for people to work together to endeavour to find better ways for humans to live sustainably and in harmony with the natural world.
ITF has been working with and supporting local communities for more than 90 years to call for an end to the orgy of destruction which sees 15 billion trees cut down every year. Ultimately, this human activity will prove entirely self-defeating. The costs are already evident in many parts of the world in the form of land degradation and desertification, biodiversity and habitat loss, climate change and shocks, with ever more devastating storms and flooding. These trends in turn drive mass human migration.
Despite encouraging recent resolutions made by the governments of the world to halt deforestation by 2020, very little is actually being done to transform the economic system that we seem to be locked into; and which is responsible for driving the exploitation of natural resources to feed its insatiable appetite for ever growing consumption.
It always strikes me as incongruous that the private institutions that are creating this problem to serve their own interests – and yet bear none of the costs – are also those who are invited to take charge of solving it. The growing human population could easily be fed without deforestation. In fact, we could couple this with reforestation and the increasing adoption of agroforestry and analog forestry. Industrial animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation globally, yet meat and dairy consumption is a very inefficient and often unhealthy way of feeding the human population. This is compounded by a terribly inefficient food distribution system which results in a third of all food produced being wasted; combined with two-thirds of the world’s human population either getting too much or too little to eat.
Agroecological approaches restore and sustain soil fertility and improve plant health by working with nature and eliminating the use of harmful pesticides. Yet these approaches are not promoted by the profit driven agribusiness sector for the obvious reason that they can be managed by farmers themselves using their own resources.
ITF’s long standing advocacy and support for community led forestry and agroforestry, organic agriculture and a plant-based diet are all connected and are increasingly being recognised as part of a necessary holistic approach to healing and restoring a mutually beneficial relationship with our natural world. There is a blossoming of both civil society and ethically driven private sector businesses that are taking the lead and showing that this positive alternative is actually quite an easy – as well as necessary – choice to make.
The range of articles in this edition of Trees will I hope provide a source of both inspiration and stimulation for healthy debate. Read the Trees Journal here!