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Forest Futures

Population Action International has released a new report “Forest Futures: Population, Consumption and Wood Resources.”

Forest Futures reports on the disturbing relationship between the world’s human population and the availability of wood resources for cooking and heating. Although, globally, the rate of population growth is slowing, nearly one in three people live in countries considered to have critically low levels of forest cover.

Based on up-to-date United Nations data, Forest Futures provides a comprehensive assessment and ranking of forest resource availability for 157 countries. It is revealed that per capita forest cover has declined even in those countries where forests have expanded in size. One example of this is China where, between 1980 and 1995, conservation policies and technological adaptation helped increase forest size. Such efforts, though, failed to keep pace with China’s growing population and so the forest-to-people ratio shrank.

Tom Gardner-Outlaw, the report’s lead author, underlines the fact that “forests provide goods and services that are critical to economic prosperity, a healthy environment and human well-being. Finding innovative ways to meet these growing demands highlights our dilemma – we both need more forests and we need forests more than ever before.”

The report emphasizes the positive effect that population policies together with sound conservation and sustainable forest policies can have on the availability of wood resources for the future.

Recommendations include the following:

  • Governments and non-governmental organizations that implement conservation, health and other development programmes should consider the efficacy of integrated, community-based approaches that improve both natural resource conservation and access to reproductive health technology.
  • Individuals should educate themselves on population dynamics and consumption patterns and their impact on environmental sustainability.
  • Consumers should strive to reduce the environmental impacts of using wood, paper and other forest products. Widespread consumer demand for eco-labelled or green-certified paper and wood products should speed the adoption of more sustainable forestry practices and consumption patterns.

Further information

Forest Futures is available from Population Action International at the address below and, in electronic form, on their web site.

Population Action International, 1120 19th Street NW, Suite 550, Washington DC 20036, USA. Fax: 1-202-2931795. Web:

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