Forests that light up our lives

Forests that light up our lives

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has given the call to celebrate World Forestry Day for 2017 with the theme of ‘forests and energy’. The emphasis is to develop wood as a major source of renewable energy, to mitigate climate change and fostering sustainable development.

By developing community wood lots and delivering clean and energy-efficient wood stoves, millions of people in developing economies will have access to cheap and reliable supply of renewable energy. Wood from forests form 40% of the global renewable energy supply, with 2.4 billion people still dependent on fuel wood for cooking nutritious meal. In India, 67% of the rural household depend on firewood for cooking.

About one million deaths are reported annually caused by the fumes of firewood for cooking. Thus, there is an urgent need for disseminating technology that is fuel-efficient, smokeless woodstoves to better the lives of women in rural areas. Industrialised countries are developing bio-energy derived from biomass, mostly from natural forests and mono culture tree plantations to produce electricity and liquid fuels. Though they are supposed to reduce green house gas emissions, the over emphasis on extractive forestry in natural forests would accelerate deforestation and land use changes from forestry to mono culture plantations wo­uld lead to ecological disaster.

Obviously, though we may call wood energy as renewable, it has enormous negative consequences on the forests and health of forest dwellers. The theme and the key messages issued by FAO are not only flawed, but miss the holistic approach to address the issue of forests and energy. The overemphasis on wood and timber as the main source of energy is based on the concept of the benefits derived from a dead tree.

The living tree and diversity of plants that inhibit forests provide energy for not only the human population, but are also the driving force that resonate the hydrological cycle of ear­th’s forces and create conditions for living energy from water flows. The Austrian natural scientist Viktor Schauberger demonstrated the close connections between forests and earth’s water cycles, production of rain. He recognised tropical rainforests as the power house for balancing climate change. He called the forests ‘the cradle of water’ as they produce the best quality of fresh water. The broad-based forest canopy receives rain and with the energy of the sun, draws up water from the beneath the earth.

Cradle of rivers
The catchment forests of Western Ghats and Himalaya are the cradle of rivers that feed into the main land providing climate and water security. Any disturbance in the catchment is sure to have negative impact on the energy flow of water and climate. Schau­berger warned 80 years ago that if we continued to go against nature, the Earth’s ecosystems would become sick causing climate change and human societies would break down with extreme violence and greed.

He said “we must recognise that it is nature, not man that is omniscient on the Earth, but if we continue to flout her laws, humanity is undoubtedly doom­ed”. His life was dedicated to unlocking the secrets of nature’s energies and making use of non-destructive energy. His prediction has come true in many ways, especially the destruction of forests resources that has caused great damage to the soil and water hydrology, upsetting the energy balance in nature.

The potent energy of trees and green spaces in urban areas like Bengaluru can lower the temperature by 2-4 degrees. For  urban citizens, such green spa­ces not only soothe the eye but also help connect with nature. Trees and forests emit positive energy that has the power to heal the distressed mind.

An experiment conducted in Japan discovered that the forest stroll had beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system. This holistic approach is the basis for the well known Chipko Movement that was launched by the village women in Himalaya. Reacting to the overexploitation of forest resource for earning revenue through felling of trees, they coined the slogan that resonates the findings of Schauberger:

What do the forests bear?
Soil, water and pure air,
Soil, water and pure air,
Are the basis of life!
This recognises the philosophy of forests being the producers of living energy for all the Earth’s life forms and the need to protect nature’s processes.