In the words of Nelson Henderson, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” It is an invitation to action, that sounds particularly significant today — World Forestry Day — which has been celebrated for 30 years by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to raise awareness on the importance of forests.
More than 1.6 million people rely on forests for their livelihoods. Forests are home to 80 percent of our terrestrial biodiversity. They produce oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, playing a key role in curbing climate change and representing home to 300 million people around the world.
According to UNEP, forests once covered 60 percent of the earth's land area, but they now cover only 31 percent , with 13 million hectacres of forest destroyed annually.
The World Forest Day is part of the “Celebrating Forests for People” campaign promoted by the UN in support of the International Year of Forests 2011, which began on 24 January.
“This Year, which comes in the wake of the International Year of Biodiversity, represents an opportunity for evolving our work on sustainable forestry to a higher plain,” Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said in a statement.
In his film "Of Forests and Men", an official film to launch the International Year of Forests, director Yann Arthus-Bertrand explained that "when forests are cleared it is not just animals that are in danger, it is the essential being destroyed to produce the superfluous."
“Forests: Nature at your service” is the 2011 theme of the World Environment Day (WED) as well, which will be held on 5 June.
The organizers of the WED in Egypt decided to change the theme in order to adapt it to the geomorphology of the country, choosing to cover land use in Egypt instead under the slogan “Our land, our future”.