We need our forests more than ever, and they need us

Neo

On 21 March, we celebrate World Forests Day. So we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on what forests mean to us, our organisation and the rest of the world – and why it’s more important than ever to protect them.  

We’ve always been fascinated with forests. We’ve explored many at home and away. Experienced the world that lives beneath their canopies. Benefited from the peace and tranquility they provide. But they’re at risk, which means we’re at risk.

Did you know…

Amazingly forests are home to around 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. More than a billion people directly depend on them for food, shelter, energy and income. But more than 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, accounting for somewhere between 12% and 20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change (United Nations).

Deforestation is obviously affecting humankind. But is there another impact? Is our destruction of nature responsible for the likes of the coronavirus? That was the question posed in a recent Guardian article. A question that most won’t have yet considered as we try to make sense of our new world of social distancing and self-isolation.

David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times: “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” 

Over the years these concerns have been weighing on our minds. So we’ve put our passion for forests into our client work, and contributed our efforts to protect them.

Close to home

Our base in Brighton means we’re within the South Downs National Park. We consider ourselves very fortunate to reside in this working, living playground. We always enjoy exploring, admiring, relaxing and exercising within the park, accessing its farmland, coastline, picturesque villages, and forests. But now we’ve got to know it on a much deeper level through our work with the South Downs National Park Authority.

“Without maintaining the cycle of the woodlands, the area wouldn’t be as strong and bio-diverse as it is. It, along with the beautiful wildlife in it, wouldn’t exist.”

Almost a quarter of the South Downs is covered by woodland, half of which has been there for over 400 years. The yew trees are thought to be as ancient as the hills of the Downs themselves – those at Kingley Vale were once used to make medieval English longbows. Around 10,000 hectares of woodland are open for public access. That’s a lot of trees to explore. A lot of history to discover. 

We recently filmed South Downs forester Nina Williams, who’s working with the South Downs National Park Authority to increase the resilience of the park’s natural resources, habitats and species so they adapt to environmental pressures. She explained that to manage woodlands effectively requires consideration of three equally important factors that need to be balanced.

“There are productive aspects of harvesting the trees for timber and useful purposes. Then there’s also very importantly the biodiversity and the wildlife, and the third factor is the recreational and societal benefit.

“Without maintaining the cycle of the woodlands, the area wouldn’t be as strong and bio-diverse as it is. It, along with the beautiful wildlife in it, wouldn’t exist,” she said. 

Neo

Our Alissa and Kelly learnt so much while capturing the woodlands through Nina’s eyes. They truly immersed themselves in it, exploring the woodland’s natural history and experiencing it as a living landscape, where human life and flora and fauna are intertwined. They witnessed first-hand how the forester works to protect and develop these valuable landscapes for future generations of both human life and wildlife. It’s a special experience they’ll remember each time they step into the woods.

Meanwhile, at our second base in Shropshire we’re equally spoilt by our easy access to woodlands and forests, within the county and nearby mid and north Wales. You’ll often find us dog walking, cycling or horse riding there. 

Losing myself among trees that have stood for hundreds of years, within a landscape that is living, growing, evolving and yet remains reassuringly unchanged, is a humbling and grounding experience that I cherish. Even more so when I have my dog and horses with me.

Far, far away

It’s not just forests close to home that we enjoy and help to protect. We’ve also made a difference much further away.

Save the Cerrado
Home to 5% of all life on earth

WWF approached us to work on a public facing campaign to help save the Cerrado. At the time, we hadn’t heard of the Cerrado. We didn’t know that it covers one fifth of Brazil’s surface area and is home to 5% of all life on earth. Or that it’s disappearing at a devastatingly fast rate, largely due to deforestation from the intensive farming of soy. We weren’t alone. The Cerrado is arguably as important to the planet as the Amazon or the Great Barrier Reef and yet most people outside of Brazil didn’t know of its existence. 

Our challenge was to get UK supermarket shoppers to care enough about a place 6,000 miles away from them, that they would email their supermarket asking them to source a different, more responsible kind of soy. We turned to the power of storytelling through the art of handshadow puppetry… Check out the full case-study.

The making of the Cerrado

Partnerships for Forests
A collaboration to reduce deforestation and land degradation 

Partnerships for Forests’ aim is to show how companies, communities, smallholders and governments can work collaboratively to reduce deforestation and land degradation. All major contributors to climate change, and the cause of locally devastating consequences for biodiversity and communities. 

The organisation approached us with a challenge. How could they create an identity that supports them in developing relationships with both market-driven audiences and non-market driven audiences, around issues of sustainable forestry and land use?

Find out more in our full case-study.

As our forests face even more destruction and environmental pressures, there’s a lot more work for us, for humankind, to do if we’re to redress the balance.

We can start by engaging more people in why we desperately need our forests – on many levels. And why they need to be understood, respected and protected. For our sake and theirs. This message couldn’t be more urgent as we face another pandemic that could well be linked to our impact on our beautiful planet. 

So on 21 March, take a moment to consider why we need our forests.