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United Nations International Day of Forests

By Chloey Norris

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly selected March 21 to celebrate the International Day of Forests annually. The goals of celebrating this important day include raising awareness of the importance of forests in addition to educating people on what they can do to contribute to reforestation. The UN encourages individual countries to take action with activities locally, nationally, and internationally to promote reforestation.

International Day of Forests GraphicOn the United Nations website, a summary of the International Day of Forests stresses the necessity of healthy, flourishing forests of all types across the globe. Despite the infinite benefits forests provide the Earth, its ecosystems, climate, and resources, deforestation continues, and the human population remains unaware of the devastating effects that will soon result. Thus, the theme for this year’s International Day of Forests is “Forest Restoration: A Path to Recovery and Well-Being.” Reforestation and forests’ sustainability are crucial to combating the ever-worsening crisis of climate change and threats to biodiversity.

Dr. Catherine Duckett, the Associate Dean of Monmouth University’s School of Science, is an expert on the subject and provided an informative explanation in regard to the International Day of Forests and its significance. She stated that this day “emphasizes and celebrates the forests that humans and other creatures need for a healthy life. Stability of a healthy forest allows much less susceptibility to pandemic disease or pest outbreaks. Moreover, healthy forests are important to maintain water systems that people and agriculture need. Forests transpire, which promotes local rainfall, and forest root systems filter and retain water ensuring a steady distribution of clean water in their watersheds.” This explanation describes forests’ crucial benefits as well as why it is so important to maintain them.

In an interview with the IGU Director, Professor Randall Abate, who also has extensive experience with this topic from a law and policy perspective, he expanded on the human population’s ignorance of forests’ importance, their significance as a resource, reforestation and sustainable management’s benefits, and what readers can do to contribute to reforestation.

He first explained that the reason people often underestimate the significance of forests is that they appear to be a vast, unlimited resource. Deforestation is not an issue close to home, so the urgent reality of the situation is not visible for them. Humans are also unaware of the integral role that forests play in promoting biodiversity and mitigating climate change. On the issue of individuals who are aware of issues affecting the world’s forests but continue to destroy them, he explained that this cognitive dissonance is motivated by “short-term, profit focused thinking” in efforts to drive the economy and to make as much money as possible.

Forest ImageProfessor Abate identified the dual efforts for reforestation and sustainable management as the solution to all the issues affecting forests. Reforestation and afforestation are both necessary; reforestation refers to rebuilding forests in places they once existed, and afforestation is the introduction of forests to locations where they did not previously exist. These healthy, thriving forests’ presence will serve as a hub for increased biodiversity and are a valuable weapon in mitigating and adapting to climate change. A healthy ecosystem is resilient, and its resilience can better adapt to the effects of climate change. Moreover, photosynthesis in forests draws carbon out of the air, which makes intact forests valuable carbon sinks in the fight against climate change.

Finally, you can contribute to these efforts! You can donate to help others plant trees, spread awareness, conduct research on the Rights of Nature Movement, continue to educate yourself and others, and be mindful of your own contributions that affect the environment.

Professor Abate identified the following resources for readers to learn and contribute more:
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Nature Conservancy

Additionally, here are other websites dedicated to reforestation that you can financially support:
National Forest Foundation
United States Forest Service
The Gifted Tree

All in all, the UN National Day of Forests is an extremely important celebration of the forests, which are the backbone of our planet. It is our responsibility to raise awareness, educate, and contribute to the causes of reforestation, afforestation, combating climate change, and protecting biodiversity. We can make a difference!