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By Theresa Ficazzola The International Day of Forests, which took place this year on March 21, celebrates the ways in which forests and trees sustain and protect us.

Did you know…

• Forests cover 1/3 of the Earth’s land mass
• About 1.6 billion people, including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures, depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicine, fuel and food
• Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land
• Forests are home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects
• Despite the importance of our forests, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate
• 13 million hectares (1 hectare=10,000 sq. meters) of forest are destroyed annually and deforestation accounts for 12% to 20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change
• Forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75% of the world’s accessible freshwater
• About 1/3 of the world’s largest cities obtain a significant proportion of their drinking water directly from forested protected areas
• Forests act as natural water filters
• Climate change is altering forests’ role in water flows and the availability of water resources

What can you do?

• Plant a tree on your property and avoid cutting down any trees.
• Work with your local town to plant trees in local parks.
• Visit a National or State Park this year. Your support of our parks helps to pay for their upkeep and maintenance.
• Always leave a park in the same condition as how you found it. Remember to throw your trash away or take it with you.
• Buy furniture labeled “FSC”, endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council, an international not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.
• Purchase products involved with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which promotes sustainable forestry management, improved forestry practices and responsible purchasing of forest products.
• Do your part to protect our planet and limit the effects of climate change. Consider solar panels for your home. It’s reliable, dependable, sustainable, and it will save you thousands of dollars on your utility bills. Contact SI Solar today for your free, no-obligation appointment.

To kick off this year’s International Day of Forests, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, distributed this message:

“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet. They are central to our future prosperity and the stability of the global climate. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals call for transformative action to safeguard them.

In this first year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the International Day of Forests focuses on their role in supporting water systems. Forested catchments provide three-quarters of all the freshwater used for farms, industry and homes.

City dwellers in Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro and many other major cities rely on forested areas for a significant portion of their drinking water. When we protect and restore forested watersheds, we can save on the cost of building new infrastructure for water purification.

As the global population grows and demands for water escalate, safeguarding the water-providing capacity of forests is becoming more urgent. By 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions.

Forests are also central to addressing climate change. Forests provide one of the most cost-effective and efficient natural carbon capture and storage systems. Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet.

Yet, despite their critical importance, forests continue to be razed and damaged. Every year, 7 million hectares of natural forests are lost and 50 million hectares of forest land are burned.

On this International Day of Forests, I call on governments, businesses, civil society and other partners to adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests for our common future.”