This interview is part of the ‘Forest Governance Unpacked’ series with key experts in forest governance. It was developed in the context of the NewGo!…
Jonah Wittkamper is Co-Founder and President of NEXUS and the Global Governance Philanthropy Network as well as Founder of the Healthy Democracy Coalition and the…
Through human history, forests have provided a great variety of natural resources such as woods, nuts, and fruits. While we have gotten accustomed to these conventional resources, the current environmental crisis has pushed interdisciplinary research to innovate with bio-based materials as an effort to contribute to a bio-based economy.
For the past decade, a great variety of bio-based materials have been developed to replace synthetic packaging, structural materials, leather, and other fossil fuel dependent materials. Many of these are made of agricultural waste such as corn starch, leaves from different plants, coffee waste, and a large etcetera. Moreover, other bio-based materials are developed by harnessing living systems such as mycelium (the root of fungi), algae, and bacteria. This relatively new practical approach (in material design) is called Biodesign.
The bioeconomy is not simply a niche topic for experts. It concerns us all. There is no silver bullet that will solve all our societal and environmental problems. Just like with any ambitious paradigm shift, it requires broad societal engagement, open debates and critical (and most often difficult) discussions. But we think it is all worth it, and that is why we, together with researchers from Freiburg University and the University of Padova, developed an online course on how a circular bioeconomy could aid sustainability and help to face multiple simultaneous challenges related to the environment: the threat of climate change, resource depletion, population growth, and overconsumption.
Bioeconomy is a living concept. Discourses evolve. Opinions and visions of what a better future ought to look like shift. Indeed, the bioeconomy offers a unique opportunity to reshape our current production and consumption pathways, break free from our fossil-dependency, and co-create a truly innovative, sustainable and inclusive economy that works for all. But in order for this to happen, we need broad international involvement, we need to forge innovative inter-sectoral cooperation networks, we need unbiased and fact-based communication and we need to have critical debates about the meaning of sustainability in the bioeconomy context. But most importantly, we need to educate the bioeconomy leaders of tomorrow.
From the Roman Empire to present day: Italy looks back at a long history of cultivating land and making use of forest products. With Enrico Pompei, Director of National and International Forestry Policies of the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies we discussed current targets and challenges of forest management in Italy as well as advantages of collaboration and exchange of experiences between different stakeholders involved in the field of forest decision making from local to European level.
Integrate Webinar: Green Deal’s perspectives on forests and forestry in the time of Covid and Greta
On 24 June, the Integrate Network facilitated by the European Forest Institute organised the first Integrate Webinar. The webinar focused on the European Green Deal and its impacts on forest management and protection in Europe, with a special focus on the integration of biodiversity conservation into sustainable forest management – which is the main focus of the Network.
On May 20th 2020, EFI held its first ThinkForest webinar: Science Insights to the European Green Deal and Forests. During this interactive event speakers and panelists took an in-depth look into the Green Deal, using a focus on the forest-based sector to discuss a range of topics including its objectives, weaknesses, and potential for further development. During the discussions, a key critique emerged from speakers and panelists: The Green Deal lacks clear consideration of a forest bioeconomy, which is crucial for addressing the climate, economy, and biodiversity simultaneously. The critique was met with an almost unanimous agreement by audience members, with a final poll revealing that 88% of participants thought the Green Deal should be updated to include this missing link.
How can we approach young urban populations and inform them about the importance of forest use and protection? The easiest way might be to connect an important function of the forest and an important part of their life: recreation.
When we asked the participants of the “Mighty Forest Event” on Saturday, September 15th in Düsseldorf, what the forest means to them, said young urban population confirmed this connection. We were happy to hear numerous statements like “The forest is a place to relax”; “We enjoy the fresh air provided by the trees”; as well as: “I like to walk or do sports in the forest”.
As the name might suggest, the event was all about sneakers and forests. Afew, a fashionable sneakers store in Düsseldorf, designed and produced the sneaker “Mighty Forest” with a few extra details to support reforestation and to raise awareness of the situation of forests worldwide. The release took place in the framework of the “German Forest days” (Deutsche Waldtage), where organizations and institutions all over Germany organized events in and around the forests with a special focus on sports and recreation. The “Mighty forest” was limited to 300 pairs. As part of the project, Afew supports the planting of ten trees with the help of Plant-for-the-Planet for every pair of sneakers they sell. We as European Forest Institute’s Resilience Programme provided the project with the scientific knowledge behind the booklet which educates about crucial forest related facts and accompanied each pair of sneakers.
The European project Spurring INnovations for forest eCosystem sERvices in Europe (SINCERE) is officially launched. SINCERE is a four year project on the variety of ecosystem services provided to people by our forests. Funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and coordinated by the European Forest Institute, the project aims at contributing to a potential foundation for a new European forest related policy.
SINCERE is all about ecosystem services related to forests – with a focus on but not limited to European forests. Ecosystem Services in short are goods and services which benefit society. They are multifaceted and reveal themselves in many ways – from economic over material to health and emotional contributions. You can check out our introductory video for a more detailed explanation.
While you may immediately think of carbon sinks, water cycle and wood biomass, forests are also associated with cultural and spiritual benefits.
New EFI study assesses the scientific evidence
by Rach Colling
The bioeconomy has mobilised significant investments in technology, research and innovation. New and innovative bio-products and related services have emerged, and related niche markets show dynamic growth. The future of the bioeconomy, however, raises questions relating to its development potential, but also its sustainability.
The science-based study Towards a sustainable European forest-based bioeconomy – assessment and the way forward provides a synthesis of existing knowledge for policymakers on the importance of forests and the forest-based sector in contributing to the future European bioeconomy. It assesses the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a forest-based bioeconomy, and looks at issues that may affect its development.