Today we celebrate the International Day of Forests, an annual event created by the United Nations in 2012 to raise awareness of the many functions that forests perform which are vital for life on Earth. In addition to providing habitat, food, medicine and acting as carbon sinks to reduce the acceleration of climate change, forests also play a key role in supplying us with freshwater. This essential service is recognized in 2016 with the event theme “Forests and Water” in honor of that ecological relationship.
According to the UN International Day of Forests Event Page…
-75% of the worlds accessible freshwater is supplied by forested watersheds and wetlands
-Roughly a third of the worlds largest cities rely on forests to protect drinking water supplies (for example, New York City draws much of its water from wild lands in the Catskill Mountains)
-Forests act as natural water filters
-Nearly 80% of the worlds population lives in threat of impeded access to clean, fresh water
Unfortunately, even with modern understanding of the complex interrelations between forests and watersheds; or the almost universally accepted knowledge on the realities of climate change, deforestation still occurs at a staggering rate. Our planet loses an area roughly the size of England each year due to timber harvest and the clearing of forested lands. This exposes vast watersheds to contamination, destroys entire ecosystems and contributes almost as much in total CO2 emissions as the global transportation sector.
While it’s going to take a monumental effort to reverse such a trend we’ve got to find a way. It falls on each of us as consumers to do our part and to live in a more sustainable manner. Please educate yourself on the impacts of deforestation. Reduce, reuse, and recycle paper and timber products. When necessary buy only sustainably sourced lumber. And know where your food comes from. Avoid products that contain palm oil or other ingredients that contribute greatly to these problems. It may take some individual effort to get informed and to break old habits, but there really is no other viable option. The future of our planet (and specifically the life it supports) depends on it!