Natural Resources Are Crucial for Humans

At least 40% of the world’s economy and 80% of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.

Healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone:

  • Ecosystem services, such as
    • Protection of water resources
    • Soils formation and protection
    • Nutrient storage and recycling
    • Pollution breakdown and absorption
    • Contribution to climate stability
    • Maintenance of ecosystems
    • Recovery from unpredictable events
  • Biological resources, such as
    • Food
    • Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
    • Wood products
    • Ornamental plants
    • Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
    • Future resources
    • Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
  • Social benefits, such as
    • Research, education and monitoring
    • Recreation and tourism
    • Cultural values

That is quite a lot of services we get for free and the cost of replacing these, even if possible, would be extremely expensive. It therefore makes economic and development sense to move towards sustainability.

But… when it comes to Nordic countries things are not what it seems because recent studies about our forests show that biodiversity in the forests has been reduced. The system of felling rotation of trees and planting of “suitable factory-produced” saplings over the last decades has produced forests that have the even-age structures and even-structured forests covering around 90% of all forested land. Diversity has also been reduced because of the elimination of wildfires in the forests (yes – that is correct!), resulting in hundreds of species being “red-listed”. Too little wood is left to rot naturally and shade is missing from many parts of the forest. All three elements are in short supply and result in a big reduction of bio-diversity!

In Finland, 3 big forest companies more or less monopolise the forest product market. They produce pulp, sawn timber, different grades of paper and different grades of carton. Even though they have developed highly efficient technologies to produce these products there can be no doubt that none of the products represents what is normally thought of as high value-added materials. Of the total cut in any one year, only a tiny percentage is used for construction and other high-value products. In other words the main bulk of products are these low-cost bulk products that are that are shipped around the world for office workers, for toilet paper, wipes, nappies, packaging, labelling and now bio-fuels for vehicles.

The felling of trees and the transportation to the factories is handled by low-cost labour using technology to keep costs as low as possible. Inside the factory, automated machinery and robots have replaced manual human labour. It is the same with the stevedoring companies in the docks and in the ships that transport the finished products to companies who then manufacture these products into finished products.

Forests and wood are sustainable natural products that grow over many decades in huge swathes of forest. If we want to leave something for our children and their children then now is the time to act. Unfortunately the ordinary consumer cannot do much with regard to the forest companies that are big and very profitable.

In Finnish politics the picture is grim too. The Conservative and Center Parties receive huge financial support from the forestry companies. The main bosses of the Center Party are also big forestry owners and exercise powerful influence within one of the largest forest companies. The Social Democrats are keen for their workers to keep their jobs in the forestry sector, and the True Finns have publicly stated that they have little interest in Climate Change measures that may harm Finland economically! Only the Greens have a clear interest in getting the right policies working, but they are already threatening to leave the government over the use of peat as a fuel!

It is ironic that the political system does not budge even when science is quite clear! Long live Trumpian politics, and let’s hope they lose the next election… that is if you want to save the planet… 

Image: Wikipedia Commons

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