Each time I travel along the Yangtze River, I remember the summer of 1998 when for three months the River was ravaged by severe flooding that washed away thirteen million homes and caused US$26 billion worth of damage.
The floods showed how destructive nature can be in the absence of forests. Yet for decades we have been trying to harvest our economic gains at the cost of unsustainably exploiting our environment and its most valuable asset—the forests.
The Chinese government is aware of the damage done and has worked hard to find a solution. Later that year it launched the State Natural Forest Protection Project (SNFPP), a nationwide campaign to halt deforestation and over-logging in order to restore the health of our forests.
By 2000, these conservation efforts covered the natural forests along the upper reaches of China’s major rivers, including the Yangtze River. Ten years after its inception, the SNFPP has reinstated the life-nurturing capacity of our natural forests and today over half of China’s natural forests are protected.
We have learned a lesson the hard way: that our forests support our modern way of life. Without them nature can wreck havoc. With them, nature can protect us and enrich our ecosystems.
Forests provide us with so many services to sustain our lives. I have seen with my own eyes the beauty and strength of a healthy forest that provides the water we drink and protects us during the rainy seasons against landslides and flooding.
We have seen that a healthy forest brings back wildlife. Ten years ago you would have been lucky to spot a wild animal near the Three Gorges forestland in central Hubei province. Today, villagers proudly tell visitors about the monkeys and frequent bird sightings.
Even though what happened in 1998 cannot be undone, I know that each and every one of us can do something to prevent it from happening again by protecting our forests.
I was so inspired by the ecosystem services which forests provide that I decided last year to start my own movement in China. I call it the LOVE project and through it I want to promote Green City, Green Economy and Green Life.
As a Goodwill Ambassador for United Nations Environment Programme, I hope each of us can walk the talk, to love our green forests and to protect them.
We all need to realize that the numerous benefits that have been so generously been given to us are limited. And they need our protection and care if they are going to be shared by future generations.
Chinese forests: Our Lifeline for Sustained Prosperity
by Li Bingbing
Extrait du livre « Des forêts et des hommes » rédigé par la rédaction de GoodPlanet à l’occasion de l’année internationale des forêts et disponible aux éditions de la Martinière.