Photo of the Colombian Amazon by David Riaño Cortés
We are related in everything. The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the many tropical forests that we must take care of because it is part of our life. Because the forest is our home. We exist because Mother Earth generously gives and gifts us everything– water, air, wind, food and even the same oxygen that we breathe. So we must take care of and protect our forests, we must teach the new generations that if we do not take care of the (not too distant) future now, we will not have the privilege of living and knowing what we have had.
So I invite everyone who can contribute to care for the forests and the environment– to leave this inheritance for your children or grandchildren: a forest full of life, a forest well cared for so they can live in harmony.–Senaida Cerda, Kichwa woman of the Ecuadorian Amazon, cultural activist and founder of Yuramuyo women’s project, and Rainforest Partnership Project Coordinator
For Rainforest Partnership, International Day of Forests is a day of celebration– a day to appreciate the unfathomable value and critical importance of forests around the world.
But for organizations like RP, for indigenous and local people around the world, and many others, protecting forests is a year-round endeavor. There are many movements to protect forests and the rights of people living in and around them, and to celebrate the importance of forests is to celebrate these global efforts to protect them.
So this International Day of Forests, let’s support and uplift the work of people protecting forests everyday around the world.
Our work in the Amazon, the Tropical Andes, and the Pacific Tropical Rainforests is connected to these movements and efforts and today is a celebration of our collective vision and commitment.
What happens in forests affects people everywhere, no matter how far you are from a forest, geographically or emotionally. So learning about these movements is a powerful way for us to connect with the world’s forests.
It’s an opportunity for us to support their work which affects us all in a profound way.
From mitigating climate change to preventing future pandemics to protecting critical biodiversity, it’s no secret that forest protection is an urgent need for us all. But forests are also often intimately tied to local and indigenous ways of life, cultures, rights, and identities– making struggles to protect forests even more personal and human.
A few forest movements around the world.
Let’s briefly explore three movements to protect forests that we at Rainforest Partnership don’t work with everyday.
Indigenous Sámi-Led Protection of Forests and Reindeer Grazing-Lands in Northern Scandinavia
In cold and snowy Northern Scandinavia, threats to forests are threats to the Sámi people’s way of life, which is rooted in the practice of reindeer herding. The forests in this land, called Sápmi by the Sámi people, provide food and shelter for reindeer.
Unsustainable forestry practices, clear cut logging, and monoculture plantation agriculture threaten these grazing lands and many private owners of forest lands are challenging the Sámi’s legal rights to herd reindeer on private land.
The Sámi have been organizing to protect the forests, the grazing lands for reindeer, and their rights to maintain their ways of life, which they have been practicing in Sápmi for thousands of years.
Legal Advocacy for the Tongass Rainforest in Southeastern Alaska
The Tongass Forest of the Alaskan Panhandle is the largest remaining old-growth temperate rainforest in the world (yes, you read that right. A rainforest in Alaska!). The old-growth forests coexist with glaciers, fjords, and, critical for indigenous and local people, are home to the largest wild salmon populations still existing.
Despite years of legal advocacy and activism, profit clear-cut logging and road-building remain a huge threats to the Tongass– deforesting large areas of old-growth forest and threatening its key species, like brown bears, salmon, wolves, and bald eagles.
Currently, the U.S Forest Service is taking the first step towards reinstating protections that prevent roads from being built in the Tongass– which prevents pollution, deforestation, and logging.
Lumad Defense of Montane Rainforests and Indigenous Rights in the Philippines
The Lumad people are indigenous to the montane rainforests of Mindanao, an island known as the “breadbasket of the Philippines” for its vast store of minerals, forests, and crops. Because of this wealth and because of its high levels of poverty, multinational mining, logging and large-scale plantation agriculture threaten both the forests and Lumad people, a collective identity uniting the 18 tribes indigenous to the island.
Lumad lead extensive efforts to defend their lands and the forests– such as the work of Sabokahan, an organization of Lumad women defending the land and their rights and the visionary organizing of Lumad schools to empower and educate Lumad youth and protect
Lumad culture and maintain strong land stewardship practices. However, militarization and persecution of the Lumad have made defending the land and even attending a Lumad school dangerous. In Mindanao, forest protection is poignantly tied to militarization, political violence and oppression of Lumad people, as well as corporate interests incentivizing intensive extraction.
From the World Rainforest Day Team: Merging forces for forests and rainforests
If “International Day of Forests” is held every year on March 21, why do we also need “World Rainforest Day”?
Because the unique power and role of rainforests deserve a unique spotlight and celebration.
World Rainforest day was launched by the Rainforest Partnership in 2017 to bring together a global coalition of partners to celebrate the diversity and beauty of rainforests around the world and advocate for their protection– and the support of the peoples and communities that act as their guardians.
Year by year, the initiative has gained more supporters. Currently, World Rainforest Day is a movement of more than 200 partners from all continents and backgrounds that contribute to rainforest conservation in their own unique way. World Rainforest Day has become a platform for sustained-action and a source of resources and knowledge for those wishing to add their grain of sand in the mission to protect the rainforests and associated communities.
World Rainforest Day supports the mission of the International Day of Forests, and drives special attention to global rainforests, as these unique ecosystems stand out for several very important reasons: their function as water cycle regulators, their extremely high biological diversity, and their outsized contribution to the mitigation of climate change.
However, rainforests are also some of the most threatened ecosystems, especially by deforestation, extraction, and fires.
Since rainforests have such a major impact on climate mitigation, biodiversity preservation, and the regulation of the water cycle– and are at the same time in peril due to global economic interests– having a day specifically dedicated to them ensures that the need to protect them is emphasized, and it further reinforces the need to protect all forests around the globe.
World Rainforest Day, created and convened by Rainforest Partnership, builds off the collective energy and unifying force of International Day of Forests. We kick off our annual forest celebrations on March 21st, keep the party going on Earth Day, and reach our “peak celebration” on World Rainforest Day on June 22.
Today, we celebrate our united vision and commitment to protecting the world’s forest. On World Rainforest Day, we get specific. We channel the community of action-oriented partners coming together on International Day of Forests to advance the protection of tropical rainforests.
At Rainforest Partnership, we talk a lot about action. About solutions. But it’s also necessary to step back sometimes, on these global days dedicated to the celebration and protection of things so integral to our ways of life and our understanding of what it means to be human.
It’s helpful to step back before launching into plans and solutions mode– to bring clarity to our vision for the future of forests. We need to know what we’re building before we begin. We need to know how to get there.
A futurism focused on forests echoes the indigenous-futurism movement— which, among many other things, can be a tool to imagine a future untethered to the unfolding of historical events and to carry elements of the past into the present. Futurism movements and mindsets can usher in waves of healing and renewal. They can shape, guide, and clarify our efforts to restore and protect our reciprocal relations with the nonhuman world– and with each other. We are related in everything.
Indigenous futurism is deeply rooted in indigenous cosmologies and experiences. But its power as a tool to envision new possible futures can be useful to our work, as a global community working to secure a safe and promising future for the world’s forests. In other words, collective imagination can guide us forward.
Our forest futurism can take many forms– from regenerated forests, tropical to temperate and boreal, to global indigenous-led stewardship of forest ecosystems and biodiversity supported by political and economic structures, to a full transition from extractive economies to just and sustainable ones.
Or, on a more local scale, our forest-futurism can mean that the patch of woods near our homes will exist as shelter and play-ground for our children and theirs. It can mean that we will be able to visit and experience the beautiful power of forests with our families in 20, 30, 40 years. Or, it can be that young people no longer live in doubt that their futures will contain thriving forests, the wildlife that fascinates people young and old, or a climate that can hold and shelter us all.
Imagining the future can be scary. But if we think about forest futurism as a vehicle for courage and imagination, as an opportunity to creatively build something unconstrained by the current trajectory of our planet, it can lead the way forward.
As an organization bolstered and powered by young people, we hold on to our hopeful voice and vision for the future because imagining can be the first step to making that vision reality.