The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations has recently given an intervention during Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests, dedicated to the Implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests.
In its statement, by Msgr. Simon Kassas Chargé d’Affaires of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, the Holy See voiced its support for the efforts of the Forum to bring about an integral improvement in the quality of human life and called for the promotion of better management of the world’s forest resources, since they are being destroyed and altered at an alarming rate, which is depleting their biodiversity. Forests make an essential contribution in regulating the climate and their exploitation comes at a high cost to people, animals, and the environment. The Holy See also said that initiatives which aim to conserve forests must also take into account the native communities who have been living there for centuries.
Forests deserve our attention, study, and protection. As well as making an essential contribution to the regulation of the climate, they contain an irreplaceable treasure which is comprised of so many species. Some forest plants and micro-organisms, moreover, are capable of synthesizing unlimited numbers of complex substances of great medicinal potential. Other plants possess value as sources of food or as a means of genetically improving strains of edible plants.
Unfortunately, the rate at which the forests are being destroyed or altered is depleting their biodiversity so quickly that many species may never be cataloged or studied. If an obsession with profit is partly responsible for deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, it is also true that the desperate fight against poverty likewise threatens to deplete these resources. Thus, while certain forms of industrial development have induced some countries to deplete dramatically the size of their forests, foreign debt has forced other countries to administer unwisely their forest resources in the hope of reducing that debt. Similarly, the attempt to clear lands for farming or pasture is sometimes an unfortunate proof of how good and even necessary ends can be pursued with means that have unintended, harmful effects. The solution to an urgent problem can create another, equally serious one.
For that reason, it is not helpful to reflect on the thematic and operational priorities of the Strategic Plan for Forests from the comfortable perspective of highly developed societies that feature a quality of life well beyond the present reach of the majority of the world’s population. “A true ecological approach,” as Pope Francis has reminded us, “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”