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Deforestation and climate change – Yeb Sano

The Fate of Our Forests 
Yeb Saño

Consider this – more than 13 million hectares of forests disappear every year all over the world. That’s equivalent to a mind-boggling 25 million football fields. The repercussions are serious, pervasive, and wide-ranging. This continuously unfolding tragedy affects people’s lives and livelihoods in the most profound way, and from the bigger picture, this poses a great obstacle to averting the climate change crisis.

The decline of forests and changes in land use account for up to 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And this decline is proceeding at an alarming rate, with the compounding pressure being put on the forest ecosystems, and further aggravated by large-scale shifts in the climate system that will compromise the viability of forests and lead to a vicious feedback loop. Averting the climate crisis depends on a comprehensive web of solutions.

This notwithstanding, the stewardship of forests is a fundamental part of the equation. It is therefore crucial to build the grassroots strength for forest communities. Community empowerment has been proven to lead to healthier forests that can significantly help curb climate change. Grassroots empowerment is a potent tool to combat deforestation and degradation. Indigenous peoples and forest communities will have to be given the power to become stewards of the forest. Smallholder farmers, women, local communities, people’s organizations all play a vital role in ensuring that we win this battle.

Saving our forests is imperative in giving us a fighting chance against climate change. It gives one a sense of epiphany when you realize the brazen connection between the fate of our forests and the lives of people; the fate of the forests and the fate of the planet.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, the most intense typhoon to ever make landfall in modern recorded history, has shown us a glimpse of the grave future. As the devastated communities pick up the pieces and people rise back on their feet, they and many vulnerable communities around the world still face potentially overwhelming prospects.

Fighting climate change is not merely about saving nature or preserving the trees; it is truly caring about people whose lives are profoundly affected by disasters, social decay, economic injustice, and the vicious cycle of poverty. The poorest and most vulnerable people around the world are at the frontlines of climate impacts.

The climate change battle will be won or lost at the grassroots, where people confront its impacts and embrace opportunities for transformation. The fate of our forests lies in our hands, today. The fate of the planet lies in our hearts, in each one of us.

Yeb Saño
September 2014