The economic and employment benefits of forests

Forests are crucial to life, this includes providing refuge for many species, and clean air for all but they are also important to the global economy. Forests provide many important natural resources, such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants.

In 2004 trade in forest products was estimated at $327 billion. However, short-term investments for immediate gains (e.g., logging) are undermining the long term sustainability of forest products. Economists around the world have proven that by not integrating the values of forests into their budgets, countries and businesses are paying a high price. One that ultimately impoverishes us all as harm to our forest life-support system continues each and every single day.

Forests contribute to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide. Forests provide a home to more than 300 million people worldwide and they sustain economic growth. Forests also provide homes, security and livelihoods for 60 million indigenous peoples. Today people who depend on forests for their livelihoods are struggling to survive.

But this trend is not irreversible. It’s not too late to transform life as we know it into a greener future where forests are at the heart of sustainable development and green economic growth.

Conserving and expanding forests need to be recognized as a business opportunity. When we add it up, an investment of US$30 billion fighting deforestation and degradation could provide a return of US$2.5 trillion in new products and services.

Furthermore, targeted investments in forestry could generate up to 10 million new jobs around the world. Already, many leaders are glimpsing the potential for renewable energy and nature-based assets, but for transformation to happen, forests need to become a universal political priority.

The services forests provide are essentially to every aspect of our quality of life. And the answer to sustainable forest management, moving towards a green economy, lies in our hands.

Despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to live and breathe.

Continued and uncontrolled deforestation has devastating consequences for the environment, wildlife, communities, and economies around the world.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog.

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