From: Kaz Janowski, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published February 23, 2015 07:00 AM

Putting a value on forests

The day I first set foot in a tropical rainforest, in Malaysia in the early 1980s, I experienced something profound. From the echoes of gibbons calling from the canopy in the early morning mist to the iridescent flash of a bird in a beam of sunlight, rainforests are a sensory delight as well as a marvel to anyone’s scientific curiosity. 

As I subsequently watched these forests dwindle and, in some cases, vanish, I have felt an equally profound sense of loss and a nagging guilt that I was somehow part of the story, because I had done little to remedy the situation. 

Forests in tropical areas, which we know as rainforests because they are so wet — and therefore so luxuriant, so full of life — are also full of wealth. They contain huge hardwood trees, as well as a wide range of non-timber products including palm leaves and rattan — even salt from brine springs located deep in the forest. 

This wealth can be assessed as something that can be converted into money or into practical uses. For people living in and near forests, it is vital to everyday lives and livelihoods.
But let’s take a closer look at the idea of wealth itself. 

Wealth is usually assessed solely in monetary terms. But, as economist Rana Roy recently told SciDev.Net: “Money is simply an instrument with which we measure the things we value.” The wealth of forests, then, which in basic terms comprises trees and non-timber products, should also be recognised as being grounded in wider values. Forest inhabitants derive social, cultural, psychological, even spiritual value from where they live.

Forest image via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate, SciDevNet.

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