The planet's lungs. Home for people and wildlife. Engine of green economy. Forests are essential to life on Earth. They support amazing animals and plants – almost nine out of ten species found on land live in forests. Forests lock up vast amounts of carbon and release oxygen. Forests make rainfall and filter freshwater. They provide subsistence fuelwood and medicines.
In December 2000, the UN General Assembly established May 22 as an International Day for Biodiversity to commemorate the adoption the Convention on Biological Diversity on May 22, 1992. Observing this Day helps to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year events of the International Day for Biodiversity were focused on the theme of biodiversity for sustainable development.
In frame of FLEG II Program, WWF invited elementary school students for educational event in Botanical Garden of Tbilisi to talk about biodiversity and discuss how humans can minimize their ecological footprints. Eighty students from four different schools joined the event. Various educational and fun activities were held during the day ranging from a guided tour to learn about endangered species of our forests to the hidden questions contest. The winners were awarded with LEGO toys and colored pencils labeled as certified by Forests Stewardship Council (FSC).
“WWF’s education drives have always focused on either sustainable development or biodiversity conservation,” says Ms. Ana Tsintsadze, Communication Coordinator for FLEG II Program from WWF. “Today, we’re directly linking these two subjects. Children should realize that we are all connected”.
“We contributed to celebration of the International Day for Biodiversity with the aim to develop an eco-friendly attitude among children and to raise them as active citizens working for protecting the environment. We wish to make children aware that the future of the planet depends on what they do today”, said Ms. Nino Inasaridze, FLEG II Program Coordinator in Georgia from the World Bank. “These kids are born in 2005. That is the year when St. Petersburg Declaration was signed. We budded them “FLEG generation” and we have to ensure that they are committed to address illegal logging and improve forest governance to save the forest for their generation and for generations to come.
Forests impact our daily lives in more ways than we can imagine. Kids had to think of how forests have affected our life today and address the questions: Have you had your breakfast? Read a newspaper? Switched on a light? Travelled to school in a bus or car? Made a shopping list? Got a parking ticket? Blown your nose into a tissue? All these activities directly or indirectly involve forests. Some are easy to figure out – fruits, paper and wood come from trees. Others are less obvious – by-products that go into everyday items like medicines, cosmetics and detergents.
"Students have come back with a lot of information. They are eager to learn about their environment,"- said Ms. Eka Elizbarashvili, ecology teacher at the Youth Palace. “Practical lessons like this, delivered by environment practitioners, is an added value and motivates children to take care of nature”.
An estimated 13 million hectares of forests are being lost each year due to deforestation. This is an urgent environmental issue that jeopardizes people’s livelihoods, threatens species, and intensifies climate change. Forests make a vital contribution to life on Earth, but we will be able to enjoy full benefits from forests only if we halt deforestation and forest degradation.
From the air we breathe - to the wood we love, human beings are heavily dependent on forests, and the products and services they provide. Forests provide habitats to diverse animal species; they form the source of livelihood for many different human settlements; they offer watershed protection, timber and non-timber products, and various recreational options; they prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, and check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis.
Yet we are losing forests. Over the past 50 years, about half the world's original forest cover has been lost mainly because of unsustainable use of its resources. When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us.