by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): In this era of environmental awareness and advocacy to fight against reliance on the negative contributing factors of climate change (fossil fuels, single-use plastics), where do we stand on advocacy for the protection of forests?
According to the United Nations, the link between healthy forests and healthy people goes unnoticed; “when we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house, we do not always make the connection with forests. And yet, these and many other aspects of our lives are linked to forests somehow.”
Thus the theme for International Day of Forests 2023 is “Forests and health.”
Forests play a crucial role in poverty alleviation, one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievements. Still, despite all the priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, forests are endangered by fires, pests, droughts, and unprecedented deforestation.
Forest sustainable management and the use of resources are vital to combating climate change and contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations.
The benefits of forests and why they need to be protected more than ever – they purify the water, clean the air, capture carbon to fight climate change, provide food and life-saving medicines, and improve our well-being.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. Despite this declaration and the advocacy at various international environmental conferences, forests are still under threat.
Countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.
Dr. Eric Browne, a Forestry Officer from the Department of Environment St. Kitts, spoke of the day’s importance in the context of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Our forest is central to our water supply, maintaining good clean air, even for providing goods and services, maintaining [people’s] lives and livelihoods and our health and wellbeing in our tiny nation. So we too will have to rejoin with others in highlighting the importance of our forest so that we can conserve, preserve and protect that little piece of treasure that we have there.” – Dr. Browne during a conversation with WINN on March 21.
Browne said if the Federation lost portions of its rainforest, whether, to deforestation or other means, the current water situation would worsen.
“[It’s] one of the most important components of our planet where it takes patches of carbon – carbon dioxide, gasses from vehicles and factories and things and there’s pollutants and the forest is responsible for taking out those pollutants and thus purifying the air. Also, the conditions of the local environment that enables the condensation by its cooling effect of water vapour in the air and thus lead to precipitation or what we see as rainfall. So if we were to remove our forest, you know, the water situation that we are crying about would get drastically worse.”
Browne continued, “in order to preserve our water situation, even for it to improve, we have to preserve that rainforest or even reforest areas that [have] been degraded or lost. We also have [people’s] livelihoods [depending] on the forest because we have tour guides, we have [people] that use the forest for various reasons. It’s not just the Central Forest but other wooded areas to make charcoal and, you know, get these products – even food. You know our sarsaparilla – it is only found in the rainforest, and may I add that our sarsaparilla, the plant, is only found in the forest, and we are the only country that uses that particular plant to make sarsaparilla. So you see how important it is whether to our wellbeing, our health because today [health depends on forest].”
In two videos posted to the Facebook page of the Department of Environment St. Kitts, Dr Browne gave a short tour of some enhancements to Central Reserve National Park for improved visitor experience.
Highlighting what we do to enhance visitors’ experience in the Central Reserve National Park.
Reminding us to stay on the trail.
It is not enough to acknowledge the day. Still, actions to protect forests daily must be taken for advocacy and preservation to be effective, including investing in the education of professionals and experts in conservation and protection, especially when identifying and protecting indigenous species and culling invasive species in our forests.