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The global assessment

The crucial forestry issues of today's world as seen from FAO
National organizing commission (Argentina)





R.M. BELYEA (Canada)

Y. BÉTOLAUD (France)

J. SCHLEICHER (Fed. Rep. of Germany)

AS BACKGROUND to the technical discussions that were to follow, the first plenary session of the congress was devoted to addresses reviewing the changed world situation since the sixth World Forestry Congress had been held in Madrid, Spain, in 1966.

The Assistant Director-General in charge of FAO'S Forestry Department, B.K. Steenberg, spoke first on "The crucial forestry issues of today's world as seen from FAO." Certain points that he made were further elaborated by a number of speakers from the floor. The speech is reproduced below.

He was followed by Ivar Samset of Norway, President of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO), founded 80 years ago. Dr. Samset spoke on " Progress and trends in forestry science as seen by IUFRO." A special point he made was how modern technology had brought the forests in every continent within the reach of city dwellers. We must welcome the resultant world-wide interest in forestry but recognize that conflicting interests and well-meaning but often uninformed enthusiasm for environmental matters have created misunderstandings, and lead to restrictive regulation on forestry activities which need to be corrected.

The viewpoint of a nonforester was expressed in the concluding speech by Paul-Marc Henry. His experience of forestry projects, first as Assistant Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and now as Director of the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, well qualifies him to speak with authority to foresters about possible" limits of growth."

With the present rate of forest cutting on top of the rate of forest destruction from other causes, including shifting cultivation and the extension of agriculture, he warned that the world may well reach" a critical point of scarcity" by the end of the century." I see in this gathering," he said," a wonderful opportunity to get organized by creating an appropriate institutional framework to face the tremendous challenge of the next 20 years."

The crucial forestry issues of today's world as seen from FAO


(¹B.K. Steenberg is Assistant Director-General in charge of the Forestry Department, FAO.)

The focus of man's concern has shifted dramatically since the last world forestry congress. In the nineteen sixties we confronted hopefully a world explosion of expectations and aspirations. Now we have come to a period of hesitation, of grave concern, sometimes close to fear. We have concern for the sheer number of people on the earth, and for the implications of their demands for space, energy and other resources. We have concern for the availability of clean water and air, for the preservation of natural ecosystems and gene resources. We have seen many of the earlier cherished products of man's ingenuity branded as dangerous and persistent poisons in the global ecosystem. Even while discounting some of the predictions of doom, it is a fact that only today has man been made aware of some very real threats to our environment. We have only recently realized the brutal fact that this little world is all we have.

The theme of the last world forestry congress was:" The role of forestry in the changing world economy," which recognized and proclaimed the contribution of the forestry sector to economic development. The rather more reflective note of this congress," Forests and socioeconomic development," recognizes that economic development is not an end in itself.

The contribution of forests to mankind was for a long time analysed under polarized light, which made their material products and the related economic factors stand out more clearly. Naturally development was pursued in this direction. Today the plane of polarization has rotated and the forest's role in man's environment, and thus the purely social benefits, are stressed. But still we are dealing with the same forests, but less of them, and the world is populated with the same man, but with many more.

The theme of this congress-stressing both social and economic development-is thus, in fact, the signal that we have not lost balance. The present stage offers unprecedented opportunities for forestry development for the full benefit of mankind.

The concern about the long-term aspects of forestry -those that are inferred by currently fashionable words like ecology and environmental concern-has always been central in the minds of those responsible for the forest ecosystem. Foresters, already decades ago, pointed out the dangers of soil runoff and soil erosion, water quality, changes of climate, and other long-term hazards of overexploitation of the forests. It has always been inherent to the forester's task to deal with subjects beyond the planning horizon of the individual, a horizon which seldom exceeds one year. Even the planning period of governments today is most often expressed as about half a decade; short, in terms of the life of a tree or of a family. For individual man and for the practical politician the problem has been one of optimizing the current benefits with a minimum of current hardships.

But today, with the increased possibility for man to communicate and to travel, with far more people and these people more and more concentrated in urban areas, the results of overexploitation or mismanagement of forests have become current hardships.

The attrition of the forest with its flora and fauna, the disappearance of clean flowing water, the difficulty of finding easily places which provide privacy and shelter from noise and pollution and stress are being felt to an ever increasing extent.

The rate of exploitation of the forest has also increased and its scars now become visible within the life span of the individual. This exploitation, let it not be forgotten. was at least partially necessary in order to satisfy the demands of the accelerated population move toward urban areas, and it became possible through man's inventiveness.

Once the current hardships resulting from the increased demand on forest resources become obvious, the reality of the future hardships, long forewarned by leading foresters, will also be realized. Thus the hiatus between future hardships and current hardships is bridged.

Whatever the total complex of reasons for the present situation, the important thing is to grasp the true significance of this historic opportunity for forestry: the current resonance between the ideals of the small enlightened group of renewable-resources managers and society at large.

Foresters are able to manage the forests, but they alone cannot formulate national policy. Now the world tends to agree with the foresters that the time has come to formulate and codify forest policy for the sake of man's social well-being in the framework of general economic-social development. The United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment is a sign of this thinking, and the declaration can, in fact, be considered the basis of an international forest policy.

Thus today foresters have arrived at a crucial period. Looking to the future they must assert their leadership and induce governments to adopt a forest policy.

The objective of such a policy is clear-to balance man's drive toward efficiency and personal fulfilment with the need to protect him from himself and from his own deeds. For this no mechanical balance exists; it is a matter of judgement, in which all known facts have to be analysed singly, and above all their interrelation. Some facts can be quantified, some can be given a scientific basis, but many are qualitative and trans-scientific in nature. This is why they are political.

The necessity to protect man from himself rests with the biological nature of the forest ecosystem; even fast-growing species grow very slowly in relation to the speed at which forests can be destroyed, whether by man or by other means such as fire, insects or disease. Some of the responsibilities for the future of the ecosystem know no national boundary. Are not the forests of the world a heritage to mankind? But forest policy must recognize that forests are useful, indeed indispensable, for man's efficiency and personal ful-fillment There would have been no seventh World Forestry Congress if forests did not produce the raw materials for a myriad of useful products, necessary for the social and economic well-being of man. Forest utilization must continue, but it will not do so by simply stating that forests are a renewable natural resource.

This does not, on the other hand, imply that forest land must be included in sustained yield schemes. The classical single-use concept of the forest, followed by the multiple-use concept, is now much better articulated and the managers of natural resources can differentiate more clearly between single use, multiple use and dominant use. This forms one basis for action.

We all know of the rapid advance in the field of forest products. One may ponder how this has been possible in the more or less complete absence of forest policies. The explanation probably lies partly in the large-scale extractive nature of forest operations, not only in tropical areas. In fact, the growth may often have resulted from the lack of a comprehensive policy; and this explains in part the backlash that exists today.

A basic forest policy must be founded on a determination of how the forests and their products are expected to fulfil national aims and objectives. From this policy will follow, for instance, the size of the annual cut, what level of management this implies, what the capital and manpower implications are, and so on.

Uncertainty about the growth and importance of substitute materials has been a factor in delaying a basic forestry policy in some countries. Some people think that the increased use of plastics and metals will within a short time make wood a useless material. Therefore there is no need to formulate a policy dealing with productive forestry. Of course, if a country has no expressed policy for the use of its own productive natural resources, then there will be less investment, less expectation of forest development, and eventually the prophecy will be self-fulfilling.

But the increased knowledge of the scarcity of the world's energy resources, including fossile hydrocarbons and the vast energy requirements for the production of aluminium, plastics and other substitute materials, clearly shows that the forest as a source of raw materials will be needed forever. Further, the trend of modern technology is toward the use of compound rather than single materials, and the consequent growth in nonwood components should only amplify the growth in wood-based goods.

There is today, therefore, much less uncertainty about the role of governments in world forests and forest industries, and an increased desire to produce a basic policy. The uncertainties no longer paralyse action.

Both the significance of a policy and the difficulty in formulating and implementing it are dependent on the number of people on whom it has an influence. The number of people who feel they are affected by forestry matters has certainly increased due to the greater awareness of environmental problems, but the forestry sector still has less constraints than many other sectors. Forests cover much vaster areas than arable land, but they accommodate few people. The increase in the number of people affected by and influencing the forestry sector may be looked upon as a hindrance-but in reality it is a help-because it widens the basis of political will.

The formation of policies is, of course, not an end in itself. The next and crucial step is the creation or modernization of flexile institutions to develop and implement those policies.

The main contribution of FAO to this congress deals with the crucial issue of strengthening forestry institutions. This has been one of FAO's main preoccupations since its inception. I am not going to anticipate the FAO contribution at this stage; I just want to point out that the lime is now ripe for institutional innovation in the forestry sector. Imaginative foresters will find more allies than ever before in the struggle to break into the new development setting.

I would like to refer briefly to just one group of forestry institutions which is indispensable to the endurance, or staying power, of any reform of the forestry sector-the forestry education institutions. Trainees of these institutions must, of course, implement forest policy; the most brilliant of schemes is worthless without them. More important, they must make and implement future forest policy in a world where change can only become more rapid and more significant in relation to the forest.

The first World Consultation on Forestry Education, held by FAO in 1971, gave clear indications of the importance of this subject and plotted useful paths toward the future. There was clear recognition that the problems of forestry education do not concern the foresters alone and that these problems do not stop at national frontiers. The fact that a consultation of this kind was called is in itself a sign of the broadening social and economic dimensions of forestry.

It is vital that those responsible for the future, and all foresters are, be cognizant of the dynamics in man's stock of knowledge. The current important trends in research and technology are beacons to future development.

Let me, in very broad terms, indicate these trends, as they appear to FAO, and their relevance to the planning exercise.

Some of the most promising contributions emanating from fundamental research stem from breakthroughs in biochemistry and molecular biology. The new knowledge about enzymes is shedding light not only on the production process of biological material, but also its degradation and thus on the elementary processes in the forest ecological system. In molecular biology the breaking of the genetic code, and a series of new methods to manipulate genetic material, may mean that some form of genetic engineering is not too far away.

Space research has recently shown that the geocorona is made up of atomic hydrogen. The only present explanation for this observation is that water vapour is split into oxygen and hydrogen by the sun's ultraviolet rays. This, then, more than photo biosynthesis, may be the origin of the earth's oxygen. If confirmed, a revision of the assumed central position of the forests in the earth's oxygen/carbon-dioxide balance can be expected.

On the applied research side there is an increasing trend to seek assistance from the behavioural sciences. Problems like urban forestry, national park management, shifting cultivation, etc., can only be solved by determined efforts to improve and apply the tools of the social sciences, together with those of the classical forestry sciences. The position of forested areas and marginal lands in relation to various population movements is being studied more intensively. Many countries are carrying out research with a view to improving the working conditions of the forest labourer, and thus ergonomics, health conditions and accident prevention are getting increased attention.

Even in forest industry the applied research objectives are increasingly oriented toward social problems. The determined efforts to combat the pollution problems in the pulp and paper industry at the moment outweigh other new research efforts. The method whereby pulp is bleached without chlorine, using oxygen, would not have moved so rapidly from laboratory to full-scale operation if it had not been spurred on by the interest in decreasing fresh water consumption and combating pollution.

Other clear trends, are the increasing use of intensive wood production methods and the progressive utilization of growing materials.

In the first field important examples are found in the researchers' preoccupation with fast-growing species in the tree-breeding sector and the increased application of exotics in man-made forests. Perhaps equally important is the growing interest in forest fertilization. In the U.S.S.R. it is assumed that forestry will rank high in the consumption of fertilizers. Further, the World Bank has granted a loan to a country in order to support forest fertilization.

With a view to intensifying wood utilization, research is being carried out on the use of roots and branches. Increased utilization is demonstrated by the statistically significant world-wide growth in industrial wood product output, rather than by industrial wood removals. Among the many new developments for wood and wood residues is the introduction of the chipper headrig in sawmills and the explosive growth in particle board, a field where technological development has also been extremely fast. Another example is the production of plywood from logs down to 30 cm in diameter. This method, however, has still not had an impact on tropical forests.

There is a further trend toward concentrating on the problems associated with smaller-sized wood. The intensive preoccupation with rationalization in the logging field is thus centred around medium- and small-sized trees in the temperate forests, and has seen the emergence of a series of multiprocess machines, frequently called processors or harvesters. A similar development is noted in the utilization of small-sized wood, where the shift toward shorter forest rotations has been a partial incentive.

These features, as seen by research workers, will no doubt be elaborated by the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations in the course of this congress.

Let me give at the moment just two examples of the importance of these main trends for the planning exercise: one of a global nature, the other related to tropical forests.

We can still merely guess what types of forests and trees mankind will need a few generations from now. With the advances in genetics it is imperative that the genetic resources of the world be preserved as bases for future options. Exploration and conservation of the greatest possible variation in forest gene resources are a responsibility which requires planning and action on a large scale. This is a global task which was stressed at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and FAO will continue to work in this field and commends this work also to your attention.

The second example deals with the risk of not being in the mainstream of development. Tropical forest utilization deals essentially with large trees. If the mainstream of development-for instance, in logging -is centred around problems associated with smaller-sized trees, then now is the time to plan a determined research and development effort for dealing also with large-sized trees. This can best be realized if there is closer cooperation among those countries concerned with tropical forestry.

These examples may suffice to demonstrate that many crucial issues in forestry can be identified and appropriate strategies mapped out from an analysis of the research and development trends.

At this moment may I point to some issues which from FAO's point of view need resolving in order to provide the total input to the even more comprehensive and long-range planning exercise of the future.

We still do not know precisely how to classify areas covered more or less with trees, or how vast is the total forest area. For instance, the FAO world forest inventory of 1963 gave about 1000 million hectares more of the land area to forests than we would classify today. With incomplete methods of classification and insufficiency of data, it is, however, not possible to assign any real significance to this deviation, and we have thus no clear indicator as to the real change in the world forest resources. The moon is mapped to an accuracy of about one metre, and this was necessary just to put one man on the moon and bring him back. The moon is not undergoing any changes, so in its case a static picture is sufficient. For the planet earth a once-only study, even if accurate, is useless because of constant change in the components of the biosphere. The dynamics can only be realized by repeated analysis, as was recognized by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. It may be possible that the required information flow can be obtained by modern methods of remote sensing. Apart from orbiting satellites there are now sounding rockets and several types of simple launchers, needing only a two-man crew.

FAO'S task of providing a world-wide picture of the demand and supply situation of wood and forest products is labouring under increasingly difficult conditions because of the blurring of definitions. I have mentioned that on a world scale the growth in industrial wood products is considerably larger than the increase in total removals for industrial use. This indicates that the current classification of wood, which is based on assumed single-purpose use, is becoming less and less meaningful. The reason is the increased flexibility in the utilization of wood, and especially the utilization of residues. Another reason for the breakdown of the classification system is the mass of new wood products which cannot properly be listed in the conventional product classification system. Due to the value to trend analysis of the existence of a time series of data, there is always a resistance to change in classification. However, if these time series increasingly lose their meaningfulness, and this seems to be the case, some resolute decisions must be taken. This is a task for the international organizations and they need full support.

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment stressed the importance of action in the field of tropical forest management, with a concentrated attack on the marginal land problem and increased attention to forest fire prevention, detection and control. It is recommended that the Environment Fund, to be formally established by the United Nations General Assembly, finance such activities through, for example, the Unesco " Man and Biosphere Programme" in cooperation with FAO. No doubt foresters in their respective countries will embrace this important world consensus and provide a spur to the formulation and implementation of national plans and policies for action.

In fact, FAO Forestry Department's field activities are a mirror of the dynamics already on the move. Our field programme now covers 77 countries, which means that practically all developing countries with a forestry potential are included. The nature of the projects which we operate shows an explosion of problems dealing with environmental forestry. including wildlife, forest recreation and national parks management. Our field work in tropical forests has increased by a factor of ten in financial terms over the last three years. In addition to projects dealing with building and strengthening forestry institutions and with education. there are various types of prefeasibility studies, and here our cooperation with the development banks is rapidly increasing The total magnitude of the large projects which FAO operates in forestry on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme is shown by the Special Fund contribution, amounting to about $50 million. Our forestry-sector activities within the framework of the World Food Programme have at the moment 27 operational projects with a total World Food Programme contribution of $75 million.

This is a clear demonstration that the foresters of the developing world are capable of having their strategies accepted by the authorities in charge of overall country programming. And the donor countries in accepting the proposals are aware that the forestry sector has many dynamic growth-centres to be explored. One may thus confidently draw the conclusion that many more patterns in the forestry sector conducive to social and economic progress are awaiting identification.

I indicated when starting this speech that the forestry sector has felt that it has had some difficulty in informing and alerting the rest of society of its possibilities and its special problems and in winning consensus for the action to be taken. But the many trends outlined in this speech clearly show that foresters have not talked just to themselves in order to reinforce their own views. They have, in fact, been frequently and successfully in dialogue with people of divergent outlooks. In view of the new resonance created between this group of highly motivated natural-resource managers and the public at large, the planners of the future, sitting close to the summit of power, will now be increasingly prepared to listen to them. Foresters will undoubtedly quickly learn the new jargon. Planning will be more complex, but it will reach a new dimension through its greater impact on the expanded socioeconomic structure.

In the process the forester will have to win new allies and broaden his approach. In so doing he must not abrogate the treasure of accumulated knowledge nor the experience gained from the management of natural resources, an experience without which mankind would have to start all over again. But there is little evidence that foresters will give up their role as guardians of the greatest living resource in the world. And only if this heritage is upheld will the future see forests not only still producing the myriad of products useful to man, but also the multitude of non-tangible benefits which man craves for his social wellbeing. There is going to be an exciting future.

National organizing commission (Argentina)

Chairman: E.A. TAKACS

First vice-chairman:
(Chairman, Technical
Programme Committee)

Second vice-chairman:
I.N. COSTANTINO (Chairman. Executive Committee)

Third vice-chairman:
(Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria)

Chairman, Consultative Committee:

J.J.M. GARCÍA (Chairman, Administrative Committee)

General coordinator: E.F. DI LELLA

General coordinator (FAO): C. FLINTA

Representing Ministry of Foreign Affairs: L. AGUIRRE

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