Forests: closer than we imagine. Urban reflections with a vision of development

Forests: closer than we imagine. Urban reflections with a vision of development

By Rodrigo Arce Rojas

As a consequence of our isolationist gaze on cities, the worrying news about deforestation, deglaciation, loss of biodiversity, pollution of rivers and other bodies of water appear as distant not only physically but affectively ("eyes that do not see heart that does not feel"). We fail to realize that the city and rural areas (with increasingly blurred borders) are part of a single system united not only by biogeochemical cycles, the hydrological cycle, but also by history, economics and politics. What happens in cities (such as greenhouse gas emissions, social, political and economic exclusion of populations) affects rural areas and what happens in rural areas affects cities. Perhaps we can only become aware of this when the availability of water in cities is expressed in all its starkness. When we feel that when a species becomes extinct, something of ourselves is lost.

In the legitimate desire to create wealth from the provision of ecosystem services in natural areas (including forests and other plant formations) we sometimes forget that many of the border problems that we face in the forestry sector are linked to structural poverty, to the crisis of democracy and political parties, to coexistence with corruption, to disconnection with history. Obstinately we want to entrench ourselves in our technical and aseptic vision with the illusion that within the union and the parishioners we have all the answers to the great problems of the forestry sector. Reality is telling us that the forest problems are there and although strenuous efforts are being made to solve them, the problems continue.

It means then that in order to take on the challenges of the forestry sector we have to understand its complexity, which implies more interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and even indisciplinary approaches. But above all we need to regain the connection with ourselves, with others and with nature and the cosmos. It is not that we are trying to sound philosophical or religious monk but that we are simply recognizing that the concept of forest, or ecosystem services, or sustainable forest landscapes, is not reduced to biophysical dimensions but includes the totality of mass, energy, information and senses. This is to give rise to cultural, psychological, literary, mathematical aspects, among other dimensions. It is looking at wholes in a nonlinear dynamical systems perspective.

There will be no forestry development possible if we do not achieve that citizens (including foresters themselves) have the ability to reconnect with the essence of being part of nature, being nature. There will be no forestry development possible if we insist on keeping to paradigms or beliefs that legitimize the domination or reification of nature. The belief that civilizing forests is urbanizing them or converting them to industrial agricultural landscapes is leading to the destruction of our forest heritage. And it is not that the contribution of other productive activities is denied, but rather the definition of policies, technologies and actions to manage socio-ecosystems or agroecosystems is sought.

There will be no forestry development possible if we are not able to admire the wonderful design of the leaves, the fractality of the veins, to be infinitely surprised by the reproductive strategies of plants, their incredible processes of biochemical communication, to enjoy the narrative peasant or the indigenous imaginary about the spirits of the forests.

Nor will forestry development be possible if we continue to deny politics (however discredited it may be), forestry history, forestry literature, forestry psychology. If we are not able to be sufficiently outraged at forest corruption.

There will be no forestry development possible if we subordinate environmental and social considerations only for economic growth. A vision from that perspective indicates that the task is not complete. Nor should we fall into the bias (well intentioned or not) that in the name of the social we must weaken the environmental, or that in the name of the environment we must crush social considerations. Strong sustainability is the search for a delicate balance in which sensible considerations prevail.

The great forestry challenge is the religance that implies reconnecting what has been culturally separated in the name of the human domain. Reconnect with oneself, with others and with nature under the principles of dialogue of Martín Buber. It requires a clearer recognition of interrelationships and interdependencies, networks. This requires teams with great mental openness so that with critical thinking they are able to explore the multiple possibilities. This requires openness to other ways of thinking, feeling and acting with a great sense of innovation and creativity.

It's not that the solutions just come from the field or just from the cabinet. Polarizations that reduce the possibilities of generating alternatives. A dialogical approach implies being able to make dilemmas seen as complementary, synergistic so that new possibilities can emerge.

In conclusion we can say that from the cities we have a lot of responsibility with the destiny of the forests, as from the forest, from the local and from the people we have a great cultural energy to recreate a forest culture oriented towards sustainability and equity. There are no divisions that are valid in porous systems that are strongly interrelated and that in turn are part of larger systems until reaching the earth system.

Video: circular strategies Session 3. Large Scale (May 2021).