Today (3 March) is UN World Wildlife Day and this year’s theme is Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet.
The complex relationships between species, the ecosystems in which they live and the broader issues of planetary health are increasingly being understood as absolutely crucial for the wellbeing and future of literally all life on Earth.
The old saying that ‘no man is an island’ is long overdue a far less Anthropocentric rewrite – no life is an island. If we need a simple and easily understood illustration of this, we need only look to the world’s forests.
Forests are home to myriad species of plants and animal life ranging from slime moulds and bacteria to tigers and elephants, all interdependent and existing in balance together – it’s estimated forests are home to 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.
Lest we forget, human are animals too and forests have supported human populations for thousands of years; to this day, indigenous communities around the world still rely on them to maintain traditional livelihoods and for resources.
And forests are a vital line of defence against runaway climate change – there’s more carbon in biomass and soils than in all the Earth’s atmosphere. To put a more tangible face on it, the largest and oldest trees on the planet represent as little as one per cent of the world’s living forest biomass, but they lock in about half of the total carbon.
We all know – or certainly should be aware of – the many threats which daily wreak appalling damage on the forests of the world, whether it’s this many football pitches’ worth lost to cash-crop agriculture or that many Olympic stadiums full of illegally logged timber cut and smuggled out into lucrative markets to become ugly reproduction furniture or decking on the yachts of the wealthy.
EIA’s Forests Campaign works day in, day out to expose forest crime and hold its perpetrators to account, to scrutinise the credibility of those claiming sustainability for agricultural products such as palm oil and to press for full and proper enforcement of, and compliance with, legislation we’ve played a big part in putting into place to keep stolen timber out of commercial markets.
Sometimes the scale of threats forests face can appear so huge, the stakes so high, that it feels overwhelming – more likely to inspire TV binge-watch escapism than action.
But it’s possible to make a difference – EIA is fewer than 50 people and in our time we’ve managed to make some really big changes in the right direction.
For World Wildlife Day 2021, we’d like to share just a few of them with you, with our thanks for your support and donations which have made it all possible and continue to do so.
1999 – Our report on illegal logging in Indonesian national parks led to the Indonesian Government designating illegal logging a priority and to the timber ramin being protected by CITES.
2008 – After several years of successful campaigning by our EIA US colleagues, the US Congress amended the Lacey Act to prohibit the import and trade of illegally harvested plants, expanding the law to combat illegal logging and associated trade. The groundbreaking law created dramatic changes in the global wood products industry and led to systemic shifts in the practices of suppliers, manufacturers and importers both in the US and around the world.
2013 – We helped set up the EU Timber Regulation which stops illegal timber from entering the EU market.
2017 – The Danish Government restricted companies from selling Burmese teak in the country following evidence in an EIA Forests report, triggering a domino effect of enforcement across Europe.
2019 – As a result of our report and allegations of ‘greenwashing’, palm oil certification body the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil pledged to investigate how consumers are being conned about palm oil sustainability and to put its house in order.
2019 – Our State of Corruption report uncovered the criminal network behind trade in Myanmar teak, leading to increased enforcement along the China-Myanmar border, which was closed to timber for a full 18 months.
2020 – After years of EIA exposés and pressure to address illegal logging though reports such as the game-changing Appetite for Destruction, China announced it is to revise its new forest law so that stolen timber is addressed within its own markets.
2020 – Following campaigns led by EIA and its partners, Indonesia shelved its plans to water down timber trade regulations under the cover of coronavirus.
Happy World Wildlife Day – there’s a lot out there worth fighting for!