The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one of the most widely read children's books of all time. It follows the evolving relationship of a boy and a tree through their lives. Many interpret the tree as Mother Nature and the boy as humanity demonstrating how society has a tendency to exploit its natural resources.
Moving from book pages to modern reality, the text provides a valuable reminder to the urgency with which the pulp and paper industry needs to shift its thinking and take a greater responsibility for the conservation and restoration of forests. At Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) we committed to zero deforestation in 2013, something we are implementing through our Forest Conservation Policy. This includes sourcing all material from plantation-grown trees, ceasing forest clearance for plantation development and working with local communities.
Rainforests cover less than four per cent the total surface area on the planet, but about 50 per cent of the plants and animals on the earth live in rainforests. They are also major contributors in the carbon and water cycles that make life on Earth for humans possible.
Forests help to mitigate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, holding more than 210 gigatons of carbon. When trees are cut, burned or removed they emit these reserves, reversing this potential and turning into a carbon emitter. This accounts for approximately 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Deforestation also decreases the habitats, as well as food and water availability of forest-dwelling animals. While a few are able to move and adapt, many are often unable to survive in the forested land left behind and for this reason, face serious risk of extinction.
Experts say rainforest protection and restoration are critical to slowing climate change. By one estimate, published in 2015 in the scientific journal Nature, existing rainforests could meet half the 2050 target for reducing carbon emissions.
The work of scientists in raising awareness about the importance of forests in mitigating carbon emissions led the United Nations to hold the first ever Forest Day in 2007. Its success grew and in 2012 the UN designated March 21st as International Day of Forests. Since then, countries have been encouraged to organize local, national, and international activities that highlight the need for protection and afforestation of this vital natural resource.
Indonesia is home to the third largest area of rainforests in the world and some of the highest levels of biodiversity. There, APP has been working with the Belantara Foundation to support the protection of the country's natural environment through large-scale landscape conservation.
Working with local communities, governments, the private sector and NGOs, the foundation relies on a multi-stakeholder approach to resolve resource management problems. They also take a landscape approach, which works on a multi-stakeholder level. To put it simply, if you clean your yard and your neighbor does not, then the rubbish will still blow across your sidewalk. Only through working together can you ensure a clean street.
This example captures the spirit of International Day of Forests and offers a future course for many of us to pursue. The lesson from The Giving Tree centres on the need to see the benefits of both taking and giving. To ensure our relationship with forests continue year after year, it is more important than ever to ensure that we strike this balance today.
Ian Lifshitz, North American Director, Asia Pulp & Paper