International Day of Forests 2023: health and well-being

The UN proposes as a theme for this year: “Forests and health”. Forests are essential to regulate the planet’s temperature and help store carbon

Editorial / UN

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The International Day of Forests is celebrated every year on March 21 and was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 to highlight the importance of forests in the lives of people and the planet as a whole. The objective of this day is to raise awareness of the need to protect, restore and sustainably manage the world’s forests for present and future generations. Each year a different theme is chosen to highlight specific aspects related to forests and their importance in our lives.

The UN proposes as theme for 2023 for the International Forest Day is “forests and health” As stated in your report Forests for human health and well-being (1) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) which highlights that directly and indirectly “provide important benefits for the health of all people, not only those whose lives are closely intertwined with forest ecosystems, but also people who live far from forests, such as urban populations”.

In the same work, the United Nations ensures that although the recognition of the importance of forests for food security and nutrition has increased notably in recent years, their role for human health has received less attention. Nutrition and health are intrinsically related: good nutrition cannot be achieved without good health, and vice versa.

planet carbon sink

The land surface, including mountains, hills, plateaus, and plains, provides vital services, such as oxygen, food, and water, that are essential for life. In addition, the earth is home to much of the planet’s biodiversity.

The earth “plays a key role in the climate system”, since it acts as a carbon sink, since its surfaces, like forests, regulate the planet’s temperature and help store carbon. Only in the last decade, terrestrial ecosystems absorbed about 30 percent of carbon emissions produced by human activities such as burning fossil fuels.

However, our land is under increasing pressure from deforestation, urbanization, industrial development, agricultural expansion and unsustainable agricultural practices, which are undermining its ability to sustain food production, maintain freshwater and forest resources, as well as to regulate climate and air quality.

Also, the climate change aggravatesin turn, the degeneration of the land through drought, desertification, and other extreme weather events that increase in frequency and intensity as the planet warms.

The state of our land

At present, it has deteriorated up to 40 percent of the planet’s land surface, including 30 per cent of cropland and 10 percent of pasture.

In the last fifty years, the area of ​​arid zones in drought conditions has increased by an average of more than 1 percent per year, which has affected, above all, countries in Africa and Asia. If we continue to abuse our land, by the year 2050 a area as large as the size of South America.

When land deteriorates, this action has an impact on food security, water availability and the health of ecosystems, which directly affects the half of humanity and causes a loss of environmental services worth about 40 trillion dollars every yearwhich represents almost the half of world GDP of 93 trillion dollars in 2021.

Likewise, the degeneration of the earth is considered “the biggest cause of loss of terrestrial biodiversity”, which causes the destruction of the habitats of many animals and plants. Similarly, situations of severe degeneration, such as drought and desertification, can devastate communities, causing some social instability and economic. Up to 250 million people they would have to move between now and 2050 as a consequence of desertification caused by climate change.

Earth and climate change

How does land deterioration affect climate change? Land deterioration decreases the soil’s capacity to store carbon. Also, when forests are cleared or burned, the carbon they have stored is released. A 2018 United Nations report revealed that deforestation alone accounted for about 10 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Between 2000 and 2009, annual greenhouse gas emissions from degraded land accounted for up to 4.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; global energy-related CO2 emissions are expected to peak in 2021, with 36.3 billion tons.

As the planet warms, extreme weather events such as longer and more intense droughts, heavier rains that trigger flooding and landslides, and more frequent and intense tropical storms worsen the degeneration of the land.


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