How often do you think about forests?
If your answer is not very much, you’re probably much like the rest of the world. Although forests are some of the world’s most important ecosystems (housing amazing biodiversity, stabilizing weather systems and keeping climate change-causing carbon out of the atmosphere) they tend to be more of a backdrop to campaigns centered on people or charismatic animals like owls, wolves or bears.
This year, the U.N. is hoping to make people think about forests just a little bit more, by declaring 2011 the International Year of Forests. Participating countries around the world will hold events – conferences, exhibitions, tree planting competitions and film festivals – all calling attention to the value of forests to their country and to the globe. A few examples:
The Sixth Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe will be convened in Oslo from 14 to 16 June 2011
Brazil plans to organize an International Congress on Cities and Forests in Manaus, Amazonas
And, Ethiopia is planning an International Year of Forests launch event with participation of government, NGOs and universities.
Additionally, the U.N. will hold its own launch event in February at its headquarters in New York, featuring a film festival in collaboration with Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.
The U.N.’s habit of declaring ‘years’ may seem hokey, but often works to increase attention to the subjects they choose, particularly in countries outside of the United States where the U.N. has a larger presence. Last year’s campaign, the International Year of Biodiversity won a coveted Green Award for best global campaign.
With ever increasing threats, including climate change, logging and agriculture, forests need the attention now more than ever. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that "Globally, around 13 million hectares (ha) of forests were converted to other uses (including agriculture) or were lost through natural causes each year between 2000 and 2010." That's 130 million hectares—an area roughly the size of Peru.
At this rate, it won't be long before we don't have any of the world's original forests left at all. So here’s a few ideas on how you can mark your own Year of Forests.