Escape To The Forest Before Forests Escape The Earth

Written by Steve Nicholson, Director of Sustainability, Solaris Paper

Picture being surrounded by tall stone buildings, cars flying by, horns honking, people pushing past each other, constant construction. Now imagine lush foliage, wild animals scampering among trees, a walking trail guiding you through the greenery, and the smell of fresh eucalyptus. In today’s digital world, people tend to feel more at peace and relaxed among nature, soaking in the wonderful natural forests Australia enjoys, without the added distraction of technology.

There are two trains of thought when considering the connection between forests and individuals’ well-being. The first line of thinking is that a connection with nature is emotional. The second is that there are actually scientific benefits from being around forests.

Forests are often associated with peace and relaxation. This is a psychological, emotional reaction to being removed from the hustle of modern, industrial, city life. Forests allow the mind to be less overworked, take a step back and refresh. A mind is a powerful tool. Sometimes, simply the perception of being refreshed is more important than the health benefits forests provide.

There have been many scientific studies that have explored the connection between humans and forests, looking to explain why nature makes us feel relaxed and rejuvenated. These studies have found evidence that shows forests and the outdoors have a healthy impact on how our bodies function. Studies show exposure to sunlight, and Vitamin D helps human bodies function more efficiently. Further, access to natural light helps to normalise sleep schedules, which is critical considering artificial light from phones and televisions harm the melatonin used to regulate sleep. Finally, forests store more carbon and release oxygen, allowing our lungs to breathe in better quality air.

Not only do forests help with our wellbeing, but they also help to maintain biodiversity and create habitats that protect Australian wildlife. We wouldn’t want the koala or quokka to go the same way as the Tasmanian Tiger, but it could happen if Australia’s natural forests are allowed to be irresponsibly logged. Combined with the benefits forests have on humans, it becomes clear natural forests need to be protected.

Unfortunately, it has become all too common to hear about natural forests in Australia and around the world being threatened by illegal logging. Governments around the world failing to adequately protect forests within their country.

Illegal logging refers to illegal practices related to the harvesting, processing and trade in timber and timber products. This often relates to illegal activities such as logging of protected tree species, logging in protected areas, logging with fake or illegal permits or using illegal harvesting methods which cause damage to the environment. In Australia, it’s estimated that up to $800 million worth of timber imports could come from illegally logged sources. When illegal logging takes place, it often means rainforests and habitats are being destroyed to create the furniture, copy paper, toilet paper, paper towel or compostable containers you’re using.

Natural wonders like the Amazon in South America are constantly threatened from deforestation, as governments fail to adequately protect the region from illegal logging. Despite lobbying from non-government organisations, and other nations, the countries responsible for the administration of the Amazon are failing to preserve it.

Not only can illegal logging remove protected forests and harm the ecosystem, it also hurts businesses who are protecting natural forests and logging legally. Legal plantations ensure businesses are only sourcing timber from plantations that have been designated by governments.

While there is an onus on governments and businesses to protect forests and engage in sustainable practices, individuals can also take steps to support the protection of forests in their weekly shop. By looking for sustainability certification accreditations when purchasing household products like tissue paper, toilet paper and copy paper, individuals can be assured they are purchasing products that have been sourced the right way.

The two forestry certifications in Australia, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), require businesses to rigorously demonstrate they are performing legal forestry to receive certification. Looking for these labels on products can be a sure way to give you peace of mind that the products you’re buying have been created sustainably. Many Australian stores are also taking on this responsibility for consumers, requiring products to be certified before they can be stocked on shelves.

To continue enjoying the health and lifestyle benefits gained from forests, they need to be harvested responsibly. While governments and businesses have critical roles to play in sustainable business practices that protect forests, everyone has a responsibility to play an active role. Whether that’s in the form of lobbying governments for stronger forest protection, or supporting businesses engaging in sustainable forestry through conscious shopping, environmental protection is a collaborative effort that is vital for sustaining the beauty of forests for generations to come.

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