The recent 43rd International Forestry Students Symposium held in the Philippines, came up with a clear message on the shifting paradigms of forestry work sifted throughout the two week long symposium. The symposium hosted 96 students from 24 countries and 37 universities.
The theme, “Ensuring life for all” catapulted the discussions and field trips into developing a sense of how forests are actually part of the bigger picture in global ecosystems and heightened a sense of realization by the delegates on how they have always known this and yet brushed it aside as common knowledge without much value.
As global environmental problems persist the frequency of asking questions and probing the relevance traditional foresters in the current context of global forests has increased over the past years and certainly continues to do so.
Forestry work has predominantly been favored by professionals who have a keen sense of minding their own business and avoiding as much human interaction as possible while sticking to their jobs of tending for the forests. However, this model of work has indeed been successful at some point but not anymore in the wake of the Anthropocene.
A talk from Dr Yasmi, a forest, and policy officer at the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation alluded a critical and controversial message to the youth delegates with the crux of his story being summarized by the words “Do not become a forester”.
While a bunch of wide eyed students looked puzzled and sat properly in their chairs, paying attention to what the good Doctor had to say about such words and to internationally aspiring foresters, the talk brought a message home.
Forests are part of a changing world and success in all forms of life has always entailed coping with change. He alluded that the drivers of change in our society are shaping the future of forests in our world and foresters need to acknowledge these drivers and how they influence their work.
Some of these drivers include population increases with more pressure being exerted on forest resources, market values shifting as more people demand cleaner energy and environmental issues such as climate change. The increased frequency of typhoons in the Philippines being a great example of how that has driven the mangrove reforestation programme in the country.
This rapidly changing world therefore demands adaptive forester minds. Forestry is no longer about the staying in the woods, it is about meeting the world, and as such forestry education should aim to develop not foresters but society ready foresters.
Qualities like open mindedness, effective team playing, good communication and networking skills as well as critical and constructive negotiation skills matter as much as skills for species identification and the development of models for predicting tree growth.
So to end this article I did a random search on google and typed in the words “Traditional forestry dying” and yes nothing came up about the need for mind-set shifts in the profession rather all results were about the physical growth and death of forests, something for us young foresters to really think about, ‘How should we drive change in the forestry profession so that we can manage the changing world of forests’.
Blogpost and picture submitted by: Tatenda Mapeto, Head of Commission Forestry Education (IFSA)
Blogpost uploaded by: Keron Bascombe