Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project & North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition, posted on this blog everyday last week from the World Forestry Congress.
Buenos Aires, Argentina Oct. 23, 2009- Adjacent to the lounge area at the World Forestry Congress are two shallow pools with sporadically placed globs of water plants growing in them. Floating in and among these water plants, posing as water lilies, are big pink Gerber Daisies. Hanging from the ceiling are plastic birds suspended by fishing line. Over the loudspeaker, very tinny sounding recorded bird songs. This bizarre setting, I believe, serves as a perfect metaphor for what I have seen at this, my first, World Forestry Congress.
In seminar after seminar I have witnessed plantation-crazed maniacs posing as people deeply concerned with the well-being of our forests. Even at the Forest Restoration session the topic was not threats to the world’s forests and techniques to restore forests and their biodiversity. No, the workshop on “restoring forests” was all about growing monoculture tree plantations. (sigh.)
Nearly every session here has been first and foremost a public relations campaign aimed at drilling into the heads of all, but especially the young impressionable forestry students, that the industrial plantation forestry is our best bet for saving the forests. These forestry hucksters congratulate themselves and each other for being such good con artists. And their jargon is flawless. They have coopted the terminology developed by social movements and environmental organizations brilliantly. Capacity building and Consultations with Indigenous Peoples, Sustainable Forestry Management, Net Zero Deforestation, Forest Restoration, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Ending Illegal Logging, Certification, Advancing Social and Ecological Values, Environmental Stewardship, Sustainability Criteria… and on and on… So beautiful, so moving. (Pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain!)
But if you actually listen to the presentations you can find the subtext and hear what they are actually saying. It is like something from George Orwell’s 1984. For example, yesterday at a session on REDD, a woman overseeing a REDD project in Brazil pointed out that her project in the Juma forest is raising money by partnering with corporations including Marriott and Coke. For every night someone stays in a Marriott hotel, they donate $1 to the REDD project in order to offset the emissions of their guests (no, not the emissions released BY their guests). The lesson: the more we consume, the more we conserve. Brilliant!
This logic then also spills over into the effort to promote trees for bioenergy as a means to fight climate change. We can reduce emissions from deforestation while we reduce more emissions by logging more trees! 2+2=5! War is Peace! (Hmmm, the guy sending more troops to kill people in Afghanistan DID just got the Nobel Peace Prize…)
Then there was the World Wildlife Fund session on Thursday night on “Stimulating Forest Investments—how to finance forest destruction, oops, I mean, conservation. (Funded, you might like to know, by CitiBank and USAID, among others.)
Mark Constantine, of the International Finance Corporation talked about their work in Indonesia. He had a very neat and tidy little chart that talked about “Challenges” (there’s that word again!) in one column and “Opportunities” in another.
Challenge: Peat Swamp Forest Conversion. Opportunity: Reforestation of Degraded Lands. Now, remember boys and girls what we just learned about “forest restoration.” That’s right, the “challenge” of peat swamp forest destruction in Indonesia provides us with the “opportunity” to plant tree monocultures!
In another chart, he listed the “Risks” of certain activities, next to a column called “mitigation.” The first item under “risks” was “unsustainable logging & biodiversity loss” The mitigation: certification and NGO partnerships. In other words, when you do unsustainable logging and destroy biodiversity, you will need to mitigate your image by getting sustainable forestry certification and partnering with an NGO like WWF.
Another presenter was Roberto Waack, from the Forest Stewardship Council, your friendly neighborhood forest certifiers. (Didn’t realize forests needed to be certified, did you? You thought they just grew.) His presentation was quite illuminating. First he pointed out what FSC does: “Advancing Sustainable Forest Management [you will remember from our lesson yesterday that SFM includes conversion of forests to monoculture timber plantations] through Standards, Certification and Labeling.”
They now have 115 million hectares of certified forests (both “natural” and “planted”) in 82 countries, with over 15,000 FSC certificate holders in 99 countries. They have certified productive forests worth over $20 billion. In 2007, they experienced 40% growth in their FSC “supply chain.” You should have seen their graph! Nothing but up, up, up! FSC, he explained, is a “multi-billion dollar brand.”
They are also working with operators to help them transition to “clean energy” from biomass, and are supporting new markets and multiple use of forests—including bioenergy.
This is all well and good, you say, but what has it got to do with protecting forests? Honestly, I have no idea…
The final session of the day is going on as I write this. It is the session on “recommendations” for the congress. As my recommendations would be in the realm of removing themselves from the planet, I thought it best to abstain from attending. If I had to hear one more talking head blather about sustainably destroying the planet, I would have lost my mind completely.
So there you have it. The World Forestry Congress in a nutshell. 6,000 participants (including approximately 6 Indigenous People) and millions of tons of emissions devoted to exactly what purpose? Toward the noble goal of building the capacity to manage forests sustainably toward zero net deforestation in order to restore the forest, thereby reducing emissions from deforestation and ending illegal logging through certified sustainability criteria and environmental stewardship that advances social and ecological values.
Who could argue with that?