By Rodrigo Arce Rojas
If this is the case, it would be necessary to review the language used in public forest administration when it divides the world into two categories that appear exclusive when not imposed: administrators and administered. It is not as naive as it might seem because presented like this from one side is the rule, the procedure, "the reason" and from the other side is compliance with the rule, the procedure and who needs to know the reason for the administrator.
In this duality of the administrator and the administered, it is assumed that the paradigmatic frameworks, the conceptual frameworks and the procedures are finished concepts that do not require revision and that only the task of enforcing them remains. But objectively, is this so? If that were true, then it would be enough to comply with public policies and regulations to have a buoyant forest sector and the major forest problems (deforestation, forest degradation, forest corruption) would be on the way to be solved but we well know that there are many difficulties to affirm that we are going to solve these great problems that are rather structural and complex.
Of course, we need the rule of law to be fulfilled in the forestry sector, but we also need to recognize that the aforementioned “rule of law” is not perfect, that there are still many gaps and much room for further improvement. The key is what we are understanding to say that it is improving. For some, it will be that the forestry sector contributes more visibly and tangibly to economic development, others will say that it contributes more effectively to the conservation of forests, and others will say that the contribution of the forestry sector translates into opportunities, quality of life for people, respect for their human rights, opportunities for populations at risk, opportunities for women. But there will also be some who think that the improvement is not measured with a one-dimensional focus and that the forest contribution must be treated from a multidimensional perspective. It then depends on the bias or vision that the actors have to say in what way the sector is improving.
Some will say, however, that the problem in the forestry sector is not to create more policies or norms, but how to enforce what exists, then they will be placed in the group of those who approach the rule of law as “finished concepts”. Seen from that perspective, the emphasis is on how to communicate, how to train users to comply with what has already been established. But, are we sure that this rule of law has the correct paradigms? Correct depending on what point of view: economic, social, environmental, comprehensive or sustainable? From all this it is clear that all the actors have to review their paradigms and ensure that they point to sustainability. If it serves to grow economically but deforestation and corruption continue, we are not on the right track. If it serves to meet social needs but does not contribute to sustainability, we are not on the right track either. On many occasions, attention to the social (or on behalf of it) relaxes environmental considerations, and what is worse, benefits third parties more than those who are intended to benefit in the name of social character.
Now, if we assume that the political and regulatory framework is oriented towards a process of continuous improvement and strongly oriented to the attention of forest users with the highest quality standards (which inevitably includes the sustainability of forests), then so As important as communicating or training is listening, it is to recognize reality so that it permanently seeks to refine, adjust, synchronize the political and normative framework so that it better accounts for biological, ecological, cultural, linguistic and meaning diversity. As important as that the administration approaches the forest is that the forest (reality) approaches the administration (even better if the administration is done directly where the forests are).
Listening is essential in an empathic forest management proposal that not only adheres to technical considerations but is also keenly interested in the history of the forest user, their needs, their dreams, their projections, their statements, their questions, their uncertainties, their empty, their fears and their joys. It is not the cold distance between the administrator and the administered but it is an affective human relationship of lively interest in the other, of listening to them, feeling them, giving them a voice, giving them space and opportunities. What I am pointing out is fundamental for realities of high biological and cultural diversity like ours. It is to recognize the richness of the socio-diversity and the subgroups (subcultures) that exist in large categories such as loggers, chestnut trees, shiringueros, wildlife managers, hunters, among others. Our maps of forest actors are then commissioned to collect diversity within the diversity of each group. Likewise, it is important that we can collect the different meanings existing between the various actors with their own internal diversity. This is of the utmost importance because concepts such as tree, State, democracy, formality, legality, management, among many others, have different ways of being understood, felt, experienced and valued. Something that we have not verified, for example, is the concept of "State" that exists between the various actors. This semantic out-of-tune creates many fractures or voids that we have not perceived or have not wanted to perceive in the name of uniformity or generality.
From this perspective of sustainable forest management with a complexity approach, action is not only taken to impose but fundamentally to understand the logic, the meanings that forestry actors have in their forestry action. Even what from the majority perspective can be understood as informal or illegal. If we do not get to the hearts of the informal or illegal, we will never be able to understand their motivations, their meanings, their reference patterns. But this welcoming view of the informal or the illegal is not to justify the destruction of forests but is to generate the conditions for dialogue that contribute to finding sustainable solutions together. We have to overcome approaches to exclusion that in the name of the norms condemn thousands of men and women. Furthermore, we not only have to ask ourselves why these actors act informally or illegally, but what factors are those that have produced (produced or reproduced) that situation. We also ask ourselves: What is the effect of the way we have been doing forest management on the existing informality and illegality? We need to make way for courageous and transformative questions. It is only from empathy, from understanding, from generative and transformative dialogue that we are going to build the necessary bridges to find shared, sensible, fair, equitable and sustainable solutions.
We need to move towards the sustainable management of forests, but in all that this implies, with responsibility and with a vision of the country and a planetary vision. We have great challenges to effectively contribute to tackling climate change, to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and this implies extending our gaze and action beyond the biophysical (without meaning to minimize their attention) to incorporate a more humane approach in communion with nature and the cosmos. We need to strengthen forest governance and forest dialogue processes so that we can build the concept of co-responsibility in the sustainable management of forests. Alone, none of the actors will be able to advance, together in good sense, in sustainability, in the great shared visions and with a great collaborative spirit, we will be able to take advantage of the great opportunities and creatively attack the great forest problems.
No more exclusion by default, no more reductionist visions that do not recognize forest complexity, no more blindness or deafness to forest corruption, no more technical decisions made lightly and not based on scientific support or the valuable contributions of local knowledge . No one denies the nature of forestry businesses, nor the opportunities to take advantage of the wealth of the forests, but this must be done under the guarantee of justice, equity and sustainability. Achieving sustainable forestry development requires political will, active forestry citizenship, social participation, dialogue, commitment and a sense of transcendence. This also requires science with awareness and values. Fundamentally, recognizing that forests can and should not only contribute to economic wealth, but also to spiritual and cultural wealth. Our children will sue us for it.