Celebrations were held in 2013 to mark 300 years since a German administrator became the first person to define the concept of sustainability. Hans von Carlowitz is being honoured for his seminal work, Sylvicultura oeconomica, which is generally accepted as the first publication to articulate the concept of forest sustainability and which later in the eighteenth century marked the conceptual starting point and framework for forest science.
Carlowitz, a senior government mining officer in the German state of Saxony, faced a pressing practical challenge: how to ensure the reliable supply of wood for the mines he was managing. Instead of expanding the supply areas of firewood, which would have involved devastating forest clearance, he instead proposed the sustainable management of forests without exhausting the resources. Although references to similar approaches in sustainability can be found in other countries and eras, Carlowitz was a pioneer in successfully conceptualizing the practice as a science – he laid the seed that was to grow into a global model of forest practices.
Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Assistant Director-General, Forestry Department, FAO