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Forest conservation and freedom from want

During the last two or three years, the world's gravest economic problem has been that of food shortages. FAO, in consultation with its member governments and other international organizations, has consequently given special attention to solving this problem. The emphasis laid upon it may have suggested that the production and distribution of food are the sole field of FAO's activities. This is not so. The Constitution of FAO makes this clear. Its task is to raise the standards of living of the peoples of the world - in other words to provide them with "Freedom from Want."

"Freedom from Want" does not mean only "enough food for everybody"; it means sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to enable human beings to live happy, healthy, prosperous lives. That is why the nations of the world, in establishing FAO, placed forestry and forest products within its responsibilities. The successful prosecution of forestry and the proper use of forest products not only contribute largely to the homes and clothes the world needs, but also conditions in the long term the world's output of food.

N.E. Dodd


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

FAO accepted the Atlantic Charter declaration of "Freedom from Want" as its goal.

A rational, minimum definition of human wants includes the primary requisites of food, clothing, and shelter, satisfaction of which result from use of primary products of land. In any but the most primitive of societies it includes other things - security, health, education, amenities.

A broad definition of " want, " going beyond " enough food, " is built into FAO's structure and programs, which are designed to give its proper part and emphasis to each segment of conservation, so that the interrelationships may never be ignored.

As with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," so. "satisfaction of human wants" is a readily acceptable philosophical objective. FAO, however, is judged, not by the nobility of its philosophical objectives, but by the realism and: sanity of its practical programs to attain full, productive, and permanent use of land and water, and the welfare of the two billion people dependent upon them. The maximum that mankind can do positively and constructively is to produce full and sustained crops of food, fibers, and forests from the soils and waters of the globe.

The negative alternative is dependence, as the neo-Malthusians hint, on the classical Four Horsemen - War, Famine, Plague, and Death - in a descending spiral of self-extermination.

FAO's methods are twofold:

1. To stimulate and aid governments to act, knowledgeably and intelligently, in the self-interest of their own people, as to primary production and distribution, through application of known techniques.

2. To help provide them with attainable and progressive targets of production toward which, by positive actions, they move, and by reaching which they may be judged.

Only as such targets are set can progress year by year be measured in true perspective against what could feasibly be done, and what needs to be done. Until such attainable goals are set, nation by nation, man cannot know whether his fate is perpetual want or whether by knowledge, intelligence, and hard work he can attain to an ordered abundance. It should be accepted that FAO set up attainable long-range production targets.

The realizable production of forests has been estimated. This serves to show the great unrealized potential, under present national inertial, of a major productive block of the earth's basic resources. Estimates of attainable production of the seas, croplands, and grasslands of earth, if only presently known technologies were applied, have not even been envisaged.

When nations deeply accept a goal - as in war - mechanisms for its full achievement are devised. The problem of nations and of FAO is to obtain the same moral content in the effort to satisfy human wants.

A broadened redefinition of objectives must emphasize

that satisfaction of basic wants from products of land and water is probably attainable under known technologies;

that this will require full and permanent use of land and water and their resources on a conservation rather than an exploitation basis;

that rational development in this direction requires knowledge of resources, separately and as a whole,

statement of attainable production goals,
government services to further development programs,
large capital investments, and
re-education of the primary producers to utilize known technologies of land use and crop production;

that national and commodity economies of scarcity are far more numerous than economies of surplus.

Thus, continuing attention to distribution, prices, and economic factors generally will be required.

But far greater attention is needed to building sustained production toward attainable levels of abundance, and to do so by maintaining the essential unity of all land and water conservation. The great difficulties and complexities are surmountable.

There are, then, several considerations that fortify such a broadened redefinition.

First of all, it is true, as the FAO Constitution implicitly assumes, that productive forest, range, and crop soils are still being destroyed by exploitative methods of use; that the application of known techniques could increase production and could replace exploitation with conservation. Meanwhile, and as a result, human want continues on a vast scale.

Second, FAO's Constitution declares its purpose to be

raising levels of nutrition and standards of living of the peoples under their respective jurisdictions, securing improvements in the efficiency of the production and distribution-of all food and agricultural products, bettering the condition of rural populations, and thus contributing toward an expanding world economy.

This means the satisfaction of human wants.

Agriculture is declared to include forests and forest products, fisheries and fisheries products. Thus the lands and waters of the globe and their primary organic products are the area of FAO work.

In stating that one function of the Organization is

to promote the conservation of natural resources and the adoption of improved methods of agricultural production,

the Constitution recognizes the interrelationships of different kinds of land, the opportunities to get more useful products from them, the need to make their use permanent.

Third, the great unrealized potential of forest land, the great advances in production and distribution techniques applicable but not generally applied to food and fibers, suggest strongly but do not prove that man can lift himself from his present dilemma toward a more hopeful future.

This cannot be simple and easy. Indeed, where the imbalance between man and land is already severe, only prompt, stern conservation measures can hope to work toward a restoration of the balance. Elsewhere, only full development of unused resources, such as unexploited forests, can improve standards of living.

Finally, in a comprehensive and unified program of conservation, designed to replace scarcity with abundance, forestry and forest lands commonly occupy a key role. They may provide a continuing flow of products to satisfy human wants; and they may ensure the protection of soil, water flows, and local climate, without which food and agriculture in many lands will continue to deteriorate. They may, then, hold the whole task of conservation together.

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