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365 Reforestation Stories – Story #3: The Leuser Forest


Rainforests are important places of biodiversity, and play a crucial role for controlling global cilmate and carbon emissions, for example. Locally, they are a source of food, water, shelter for animals and also livelihood for the people who live in and/or in close vicinity of the rainforests. And much more. (Photo: juan mendez | Pexels)

It has been a while since the last Reforestation Story, but now the story continues – and moves on to another continent and from the boreal forests of the North to the rainforests of the tropics.

The Leuser Forest in Sumatra, Indonesia is not just a forest, but a vast tropical ecosystem that has global significance (as do all the forests in the world, if you consider it carefully). As some of you might know (and many more should know) this, the rainforest is being threatened by illegal cuttings that are being conducted to make room for example for palm oil trees or for raising cattle for beef. You might have also seen images and video clips of large palm oil plantations – palm tree fields – with only one tree species. Not much of biodiversity there, is it? The contrast is sharp: right next to the oil tree fields, lies a pristine rainforest, a home for countless of animal and plant species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world.

Probably the most famous and familiar of the threatened species is the Orangutan, a red-furred large ape native to Indonesia and Malaysia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangutan) that lives mainly in the canopy of the large trees in the rainforest. Or should we say, used to live, because the cuttings have been diminishing the livable area of the Orangutans for decades already, and although the animal itself is protected by law, that doesn’t stop some people from capturing, harming, and even killing the Orangutans for personal or someone else’s gain and profit. That in itself is plain wrong, but not the main topic of this blog post. However, the preservation and protection of the Orangutans among many other species is closely tied to the preservation and protection of the habitat they live in.

”The Orangutan Alliance Organisation is an independent industry-based, non-profit organisation and registered charity promoting the reduction of non-sustainable palm oil in consumer products”

https://orangutanalliance.org/about-us/

The Orangutan Alliance is one of the many organizations working for reclaiming the land in the region for its original use as rainforests and wildlife habitat. One of the ways to achieve that goal is to raise consumer awareness to what it means to nature, people and wildlife if we use palm oil based products (and you would be surprised to know how many products contain palm oil!) and why we should stop using them and choose a non-palm oil products instead, because there are much better alternatives.

Although palm oil production is not the only culprit causing deforestation and the loss of habitable forest land, it is certainly one of the biggest ones. No matter what the cause, the effect is ultimately the same: diminishing forests equals to diminishing biodiversity and protection against global climate warming.

The Orangutan Information Centre

The Orangutan Alliance is partnering with several other organizations and associations to mitigate the problem, and one of those partners is the Orangutan Information Centre (OIC). On its website, the OIC states among other things that it is ”a Medan based NGO, aiming to conserve and protect Orangutans and their forest homes in Sumatra.” (NGO stands for non-governmental organization) .

The OIC has been in operation and going reforestation work for over a decade now (since 2008), and they’ve done a tremendous job. However, in terms of what the scope of their endeavor is, they have just begun. According to the OIC website, they have managed to reforest over 800 hectares of ”critical rainforest”, which is of course awesome. And the task is ongoing.

However, compared to what is being destroyed – a whopping 80,000 hectares every day (https://www.conservation.org/stories/11-deforestation-facts-you-need-to-know) – the rate of reforestation seems awfully slow, but bit by bit, the forests will regrow if more and more of us join the cause to protect our rainforests, adding to the resources that are desperately needed to speed up reforestation and grow the area of forested land. Among many other efforts and in addition to the hands-on reforestation, the alliances aim to help local people find a way to a more sustainable livelihood. After all, the people need to live, too.

The Rainforest Alliance

Speaking of livelihood, one of the biggest multinational companies in the world, Unilever, has made a bold promise: it has promised that ”every worker who provides it with goods and services will earn a living wage by 2030 even if it costs the company more.” (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/20/business/unilever-living-wage/index.html). By 2030, WOW! So, it will be only 9 years plus change when people get what they should have had in the first place?

For a company that had a worldwide revenue of 51,980 million US dollars (https://www.statista.com/statistics/269190/global-revenue-of-the-unilever-group-since-2007/). That is, 51 980 000 000 dollars or 51.98 billion…well, it leaves me speechless. Although it’s not that straightforward, but you can do the math and figure out if they could do it, like, right away? However, it is a good thing that Unilever aims to provide a wage that is enough for living, but why not any faster?

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365 Reforestation Stories – Story #4: Love Forest Finland (Rakkauden metsä)


From the hot and humid rainforest we come back to Finland. Finland is known for its forests, and about 70 % of the land area is forest, which makes it the most forested country in Europe. However, about only 12.6 per cent of the forested area is protected or in limited use (that is, where logging is restricted). Entirely protected (no logging at all) are about 9.6 % of the forested area, which makes 2.2 million hectares.

Finnish people’s love for forests has sprouted a great concept called Love Forest Finland from the creative mind of Ms. Anu Nylund. According to the origin story of Love Forest Finland, the idea for a more ecological alternative to popular love locks came to Anu on the International Day of Forests on 2016. Coincidentally, we have just celebrated it in March 21, 2021, so this post is more than relevant today. The first ever love trees under this concept were planted in 2020.

The idea is that you can plant your own tree (or more) where it is legally permitted and where you have the landowner’s permission. When you plant the tree, you dedicate it to someone – or something – you love and wish to seal your love in this way for as long as the tree grows, which is hopefully a long time. The forest owner is ultimately responsible for taking care of that tree, but obviously you can be involved as well.

The location of the tree (or trees if you plant more than one) will be put and shown on a map where you and everyone else will have a chance to see where it is located. Details on how to get g(r)o(w)ing can be found here.

When enough individual trees have been planted, they will hopefully form a ”forest”, although there might be a some distance between them. But as for love itself, it will reach and connect across vast distances.

Is there money involved? Yes, but the best thing is that a considerable amount of it will go to nature conservation. So if you plant your love tree, register it with the Love Forest Finland and purchase the certificate. For every certificate purchased, 10 € will be donated to the Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation.

Although this is originally a Finnish concept, you can plant your own love tree anywhere else in the world (under the same preconditions). However, please remember to choose only species that can be planted on that particular site you wish to plant them. Always check the local and regional conditions first, and ask for help from the authorities if you are unsure.

Planting your own love tree is not only your testament to love, but it is also a great way to fight deforestation and facilitate nature conservation efforts. Even one tree matters. Your love matters.

(If you find any errors or misinformation, please let me know. Love Forest Finland / Mood of Finland Oy is not responsible for the above text and wording.)

365 Reforestation Stories – Story #2: Reforesting Scotland


As some of you might know, Scotland used to be a very forested region; after the last Ice Age with boreal coniferous trees and later with species that are common to a more temperate climate – until about 5,000 years ago. Since then, the forest cover has been on a decline, and the area covered by forests in Scotland was down to an astonishing 5% during the early 1900s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forestry_in_Scotland). After that, though, things have fortunately improved, and according to the same source (ibid.), the forest cover was up to 18.5% in 2019. For comparison, Finland has about 65% of land area covered by forests, and Russia around 50%, for example.

The decline of Scotland’s forests was due to many different factors such as the emergence of agriculture and industry where woodland areas were turned into farmland and trees were used as timber or for charcoal as fuel. However, replanting trees has been conducted throughout the last few centuries, and in 1919 the Forestry Commission was established to address the need to grow more timber which was in great demand during WW I, and the need was dire again during the WW II.

After that, and until the recent years, the forested area has steadily grown, but not as much and as fast as many would have hoped.

Established in 1991, and the base of operations located in Edinburgh, Reforesting Scotland is one of many organizations involved in promoting forest life and forest living in a sustainable way, and reforestation is one of its many goals. According to its website, Reforesting Scotland aims to:

  • Promote a sustainable forest culture and economy in a well-forested land
  • Develop the use of locally-produced forest goods and services
  • Encourage social and ecological restoration in forests and in wider land use
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of low-energy living based on woodland resources
  • Place the Scottish forestry situation in an international context.

According to Ms. Liz Murdoch, a member and representative of Reforesting Scotland, tells me the organisation doesn’t own land or manage it like for example, the Woodland Trust or plant as many trees as for example the Trees for Life.

If I have understood correctly, Reforesting Scotland acts more as an educator and a facilitator through workshops, publishing work, seminars etc. As forests, peatlands and wetlands, for example, are complex ecosystems, the workings of those ecosystems and their connection to other systems must be understood, and the relationships between forestry and other types of land use have to be taken into consideration.

Planting trees is mainly accomplished via the grants the organisation gives out both to members and non-members upon application and if certain criteria are met. The applicants should provide details as to how much the planting project would cost, what is the area that will be planted (maximum of 0,1 hectares – or 1,000 square metres)*, where the trees will be planted and when, what species will be planted and if they are appropriate for that place (site ecology and type, soil properties, etc.), and how the trees will be protected from being eaten by wild animals and/or livestock.

Diving deeper into how land is used in different countries, is an interesting topic indeed. Will be approaching that in some later posts.

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