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The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope.
                                                                                             Stephen Ambrose (author)

We are all acutely aware of the future. But, in our daily work, we are all too often overburdened with the demands of the present. Decisions tend to be governed by what seems most expedient now – when information and knowledge are most clear – rather than the less certain and sometimes obscure future. Always, there is a temptation to downplay, or even ignore, potentially unpleasant futures – to leave unpopular actions for later or for others; sometimes even merely to hope for some sort of divine intervention to remove problems.

The “Future of Forests” conference was an important effort to understand the views of a wide spectrum of stakeholders on how forestry in Asia and the Pacific will unfold in the future in view of the larger societal changes. A comprehensive set of forestry and related topics was addressed, including sessions describing land-use dynamics and underlying forestry trends, key drivers of change in forestry, shifts in forest policies and institutions, efforts to balance social, environmental and economic functions of forestry, globalization and national outlooks, and civil society and private sector perspectives on forestry. All of these were drawn together to help describe potential futures for forests in the region and to chart prospective ways forward.

The widespread support for the conference – evident in the extremely high caliber of the speakers, the large numbers of active and enthusiastic participants, and the dynamism of the interaction – bears testament to a collective desire to confront the future of forestry in all of its guises; exciting, hopeful, challenging, difficult, and ominous.

Throughout the conference, a key message was that the future is not set in stone and that individual and collective action can make a difference. Ideas, energy, enthusiasm and leadership can enable trends to be reversed, and can turn bad to good. It is our responsibility – as decision-makers, professionals, teachers and advocates – to ensure that we meet the challenges and bequeath a better future to our children.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

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