Or better yet – visit her in person. With more than 30 percent of the world covered in forests, Mother Nature is closer than you think.
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, and it has continued to be celebrated on the same day for nearly 50 years. Earth Day was conceived by Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, in reaction to an environmentally devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. His first Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans across the country to demonstrate and rally on behalf of the environment and environmental issues including the need for clean air, clean water, healthy wildlife habitats and more. By 1990, events were celebrated in over 141 countries and this has only continued to grow. One of the largest celebrations takes place at Earth Day Texas, held in Dallas, where more than 50,000 attendees come to see exhibits and events focused on the health and future of our planet.
And that future depends in many ways on our forests. The world’s forests are critical to sustaining many areas of environmental concern. They serve as the earth’s lungs, absorbing carbon dioxide and producing the clean air we breathe. They also act as a natural water filter, providing the clean water we drink. They provide habitat to animals in support of 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Three hundred million people worldwide live in forests, and 1.6 billion depend upon them for their livelihoods.On Earth Day and every day, forests provide food, medicine, building materials and an endless array of products we use as a matter of course. Some of these might even surprise you, like rayon clothing, toothpaste, deodorant and cosmetics. Forests also provide outdoor recreational opportunities, and many studies have linked spending time in forests to improved mental and physical health. There’s even a new term for it: “forest bathing.”
There’s no better time than Earth Day to reflect upon how much we rely on forests, pay Mother Nature a supportive visit and help advocate for their sustainable management. Forest certification is an important way of making sure that forests can continue to serve our needs today and provide for generations to come. The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is an independent, nonprofit organization that develops and oversees forest certification standards and approves certification labelling on products that come from responsible forest sources.
In addition, since 2010, SFI has awarded nearly three million dollars in Conservation and Community Partnerships grants to foster research efforts to better inform future decisions about sustainable forestry. Several grants in this year’s class work directly to measure and/or improve forest health and conservation value including:
- An SFI grant to the Nature Conservancy will help at-risk youth prepare for jobs as forest technicians, while restoring conservation values in native forests.
- Saskatchewan Research Council received an SFI grant to study and show how forested wetlands certified to SFI are helping to sequester carbon, helping mitigate the effects of climate change.
- The University of Georgia is working to show how the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, which is used widely by forest product companies and requires the use of trained loggers and best management practices for water quality, is influencing responsible forest management and benefiting critical drinking water supplies.
- The University of Northern British Columbia received an SFI grant to evaluate biodiversity in forests certified to SFI using remote-sensing laser technology. This will help improve knowledge and practices in sustainable forestry.
Forest health is of primary importance to groups such as SFI, because forests are crucial to our own health, both short- and long-term. Make it a point to check in on your nearest forest this Earth Day and find out more about the importance of sustainable forestry at sfiprogram.org.