Lest We Forget – Forestry & Arboriculture are Progressive Sciences.

But this fact is far too readily ignored and the consequences are dire and already being seen.

The more we know about trees the less we know. Knowledge is power and without full knowledge the power with regards trees is readily filled by those with no knowledge at all.

The result is the substantial and unabated losses of trees in the British landscape, at odds with the huge database of high quality research and resources made available by a declining base of internationally recognised arboricultural and forestry experts.

Inconvenient truths (such as the huge percentage of losses of young trees and losses incurred through damage by pests) are deliberately unresearched or hidden in a race to become part authors of umbrella policies with regards managing all trees, forestry and wider land management.

Together with the UK media & PR teams badly ‘translating’ scientific research has resulted in many observers making generalisations unrepresentive of what is really discovered and removing science from a public interface with regards policy for trees, forestry and soil.

This is catastrophic now that forestry is too often percieved to be the same as deforestation. I would argue that using the definition of ‘Sustainable Forest Management’ or SFM, has disenfranchised real forestry as practised in many european countries as it links ‘forestry’ far too closely with illegal or unsustainable forestry, clouding certification and worst of all removing science from the industry. But we are stuck with SFM and have to start using it to our advantage.

There has historically been ‘bad’ science with regards forestry, plantations have damaged ecosystems. But this was carried out before science had identified the value of such ecosystems and was, (as is more than possible again now), the result of poor policy from government.

We are now at the stage when sustainable development & climate change issues could well be used to outweigh the ecosystem services value by way of offsetting schemes. The potential damage by allowing policy enforced by policy makers who are yet to recognise that sustainable development is not simply innovation but requires a study of when sustainable development was the norm in history and which shaped our cultural heritage, is enormous.

Forestry was and remains the primary ‘landscape’ science. A science that has to consider all other earth and social sciences in order to be progress. Much of this science is realised location by location in deference to the complexity and diversity of landscapes, this therefore needs a strong, secure practitioner base, who are listened to and not simply swamped by legislation or at risk from the removal of scientific thought processes in favour of spin.

The blatant abuse of some forested land, that under the charge of Network rail for example, or the miniscule fines imposed on those who ‘deforest’ in the UK is far too often ignored by NGOs – why?

Because it is unprofitable to do so until / unless such time as general media wakes up to it. The void is filled by the grass roots and in the meantime for the NGOs it is easier to sell any ‘loveliness’ which can celebrated rather than considered at the same time as we lose trees, lots of trees.

And this is my problem with the ‘forestry panel report’ it is simply unscientific and little more than a charter to extol more ‘loveliness’ for the NGOs to profit from. I have waited to see whether it would ‘kickstart’ a wider debate into forestry, but it hasn’t – it is seen to have done its job. The UKNEA, which is now used as a ‘blueprint’ for all Defra policy is heavily referred to in the reports’ text. But this is not science, it is economics and the use of the NEA by government is very worrying. The inimitable Si Jakeman,  gleaned from Nick Clegg his take on GDP+ following Rio on the RSPB blog – showing just how embedded offsetting has become in the minds of our politicians:

“The UK has committed to including natural capital within our system of national accounts by 2020. Botswana has pioneered this kind of thinking since the 1980s. The government calculates the cost to the environment from mining and then invests in other parts of the economy, like education, to offset the damage.”

Scary, very scary and yet the NGOs remain quiet, unlike when there is a chance to have a pop at ‘foresters’ which they seize with gay abandon using pre 1967 forestry policy as a base to do so.

England’s public forest estate, as the people wished and stated as such, will likely remain in perpetuity. But will forestry and foresters remain though? – that is far from ascertained, but a ‘woodland culture’ is impossible without woodlanders and science, which in the UK has slowed to a crawl, is at risk at stopping completely and becoming reliant on generic research from abroad – much of which doesn’t actually fit locality after locality in the UK.

2 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

2 responses to “Lest We Forget – Forestry & Arboriculture are Progressive Sciences.

  1. lesley

    Interesting and goes some way in helping me understand this niggling je ne sais quoi I cannot dispel after reading the forest panel report.

    The recognition of and almost promise, (let us wait until the government fully commit) to keep the Public Forest Estate public has been ‘celebrated’ by many NGOer’s who at first treated the issue mutely or even as having potential, in ‘look what we have done’ manner. The drifting in and out of the issues is no less than as you suggest and I have been saddened to see the reaction of many conservationists treating foresters with nothing shy of disdain (look at Dr Mark Avery’s blog for examples).

    Where is the ‘clean up’ operation now, are Grassroots involved? I am concerned that the opportunity for closed door talks is ripe and being taking full advantage off.

    Your unwavering concerns over offsetting is good to see. It is incredible that this subject has not been picked up on further.

  2. Pingback: Lest We Forget – Forestry & Arboriculture are Progressive Sciences … | Forests Unlimited

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