Primary Forest Protection and Old-Growth Restoration Key to Solving Climate Change

As a forest conservation activist for 18 years, who later also became a climate change advocate for the past 9 years, it is so gratifying to see recent widespread acceptance of what has become EcoInternet's central message — large, connected ancient primary and old-growth forests are a requirement for stopping climate change [more] and achieving global ecological sustainability. Global survival depends upon the Earth's last 20% of natural, primary forests remaining intact and totally protected as “global ecological reserves” with fair payments for avoided deforestation. Indeed, humanity has overshot the amount of natural forest ecosystem that can be developed while sustaining biogeochemical processes upon which all life depends and maintaining an operable atmosphere. Thus, we promote restoration ecology to expand ancient forests, “rewilding” [search] remnant forests into old-growth habitat in a targeted manner.
While ecological science highlighting the necessity of maintaining ancient forests to fight climate change (amongst other things) has strengthened; sadly mainstream environmental groups cling to failed policies of “certified, sustainable” logging of these ancient life giving wonders. World Without Forests (WWF) is the primary culprit. Given we have already lost too much ancient forest to maintain the Earth's climate, and that selective first time logging certified or otherwise releases carbon and forever limits carbon sink potential; it is not enough to protect half of the Canadian Boreal — as a consortium of big money logging apologists propose. Nor is it enough to cut tropical deforestation by 50% (both presented below).

The U.S. tried to exist as a half free, half slave country; and it didn't work. It was unjust, based upon false premises that you can have it both ways on a matter of objective truth. Likewise, protecting half of what has already been 80% diminished, and continuing to advocate commercial development of the rest, when ancient and old-growth forest ecosystems are already inadequate to maintain life; is a false, deadly message. The only truthful, ecologically valid forest conservation message is the total protection of primary forests and restoration of widespread old-growth forest characteristics, with certified forest management in other secondary forests and mixed species planted forests. At this late date in the Earth's ecological collapse, those saying otherwise are part of the problem, contributing to ecological Armageddon. Tell WWF, Greenpeace, the World Bank and FSC to “End Ancient Forest Logging” [alert].

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4 Responses

  1. Doug Heiken says:

    I agree, let's first PROTECT, and then RESTORE mature and old-growth forests to help maintain a livable climate. For more info see my report:

  2. Claus says:

    what is your solution to the protection of the Canadian Boreal Forest ?
    It would be great to protect 100% but I can not see how this can be accomplished.
    if you have ideas on how to do this please write it here. I am sure WWF would love to protect 100% too, if that is possible.
    RESPONSE: Protect it all through widespread civil disobedience and protest, which requires building awareness of the consequence of its loss or industrial dimnishment.

  3. Almuth says:

    Dear Glen,
    Your post today came just after I spoke to a good friend and colleague of mine who attended the first half of the SBSTA meeting and returned with 'horror stories' about what is happening at UNFCCC with regards to rainforests. He accidentally went into what turned out to be a closed ministerial meeting set up by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, and was shocked to hear that there seemed to be a virtual consensus about earmarking 50% of existing tropical forests for destruction, preserving only those forests for which people can 'pay'. Based on market principles, saving more than half the forest is seen as unrealistically expensive… This basically amounts to complete commercialisation of forests (nothing about indigenous land rights, regulation, etc), and the destruction of half of what remains. I read the Global Forest Coalition's excellent UNFCCC submission, and it seems clear to me that they had been excluded from all the discussions, and had no idea about those plans until last week (they attend all the relevant conferences, but as an NGO don't get into the ministerial meetings). Yet the plans are already VERY advanced – a lot of consensus building has gone on behind closed doors and there is a real risk of an agreement on this at Bali – which in my view would be a death-knell for forests and humans. G8 endorsement next month is a real possibility, I fear.
    You may like to think of a future letter-writing campaign on this. Below is a letter which my friend got published in the Independent today.
    Kind regards,
    Ban killing of forests, don't buy it off
    Sir: The deforestation cover story (14 May) highlights the deepening rainforest crisis. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change remains a hopelessly inadequate response. Yet as the Global Canopy Programme (GCP) proposes a new carbon market to protect forests, they omit to mention that recent EU and US biofuel targets are driving forest destruction on an epic scale, as forests are replaced by palm-oil plantations. Removing the drivers of deforestation is preferable to relying on markets to sort it out.
    Last week I attended meetings on deforestation at the climate convention in Bonn. It quickly became clear that the Coalition of Rainforest Nations favoured reduced deforestation to 50 per cent of its current level rather than an end to deforestation.
    Yet early signs of ecosystem failure (rainforests showing prolonged water stress as a result of dehydration and fires) are already evident in several tropical forests including the Amazon. Prolonged water stress implies that forests may be close to a minimum size beyond which they will cease to be self-sustaining in a warming climate and begin to dry out. This ecosystem failure will ultimately lead to collapse of the rainforest as megafires ensue. Once it starts it's unstoppable. Only with a complete ban on all old-growth forest destruction will we have any chance of stabilising these rain-generating ecosystems.
    Money will be needed to effect a ban on deforestation but not as part of a new carbon market. Financial “payments for services” will simply put money into the hands of governments and corporations whilst weakening the already fragile “rights” of local and indigenous communities and in particular women, whose custodial role in forest ecosystems has a long history.
    When Costa Rica implemented a ban a few years ago, deforestation was reduced by 85 per cent. Combine this with the uccessful “territorial rights” approach taken in Colombia and Panama and we have a recipe for stabilising old-growth forest loss.

  4. Claus says:

    Protecting it all through widespread civil disobedience and protest probably would not work. I would join immediately as would many others but I do not think that this is realistic.
    many people unfortunately just don't give a shit about the forests even when I always tell them how important they are.
    After working more then 15 years in nature conservation I think we can achieve more with compromise. and this is where FSC might help.
    better managing a forest by FSC than loose it completely. of course even better would be to protect the forest in a National Park or similar, but often this is not realistic.
    I too would like to protect all remaining old growth forest (and create new ones where possible) but some people are always to greedy and money is too powerful an enemy

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