Forest Products Can Help Tackle Both Disease and Climate Change

Image via WFPA

The coronavirus pandemic has made a few things abundantly clear. Chief among them is the fact that we need forests – and forest products – more than ever.

The loss of forests around the world is linked to the spread of zoonotic diseases, or illnesses that spread from animals to people. As global temperatures warm, disease vectors like mosquitos and ticks are pushed into new, more human-populated habitats, and milder winders are changing the seasonal patterns of disease transmission. Forests are the key to combating climate change, and ultimately reducing the prevalence of new infectious diseases.

In recognizing that we need forests to help offset carbon emissions and regulate global temperatures, we also need to acknowledge the role working forests play in maintaining healthy forests around the world. Actively managing forests in a healthy, sustainable way doesn’t result in environmental destruction. The opposite is true. 

Sustainably managed forests actually contribute to healthy ecosystems while helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Setting some forests aside solely for recreation and wildlife preserves is an important part of the equation, but commercial forests encourage landowners large and small to keep land forested instead of converting it to development or agricultural use.

Plus, gaining certification from third-party organizations like the Sustainable Forestry Institute requires meeting a stringent set of requirements that include maintaining forest productivity and health while protecting water quality, biological diversity and special sites.

Forests could also supply us with the hygiene products we need to combat pandemics without producing a literal sea of plastic waste. While reusable products can sometimes be more desirable to reduce waste, sometimes single-use products are necessary for safety reasons. Shifting to renewable, affordable paper- and wood-based products instead of non-biodegradable plastics could substantially reduce pollution while meeting these needs.

Learn more about how working forests help preserve the environment and fight climate change: