Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

Mapping forest futures together: the Great Bear to the Congo

By Amita Bhakta, Loughborough University

Photo credit: Burt Wursten available via CC-BY-SA-3.0

The world’s forests are arguably among the most precious natural resources we have. Forests help our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and are often referred to as a marker of sustainability. When we think of sustainability, the symbolism of the tree itself as a giver of oxygen, life, and the planting of trees often spring to mind. But, a question we continue to ask ourselves, is who should bear the responsibility of protecting and sustaining our forests, and how best should we do it as a diverse world of different peoples, all with different beliefs, values and understandings of nature (which on many occasions, come into conflict)?

For one such example, Clapp et al (2016) take us into the realms of British Colombia’s Great Bear Forest in Canada. They explain how by bringing together aboriginal peoples of the forest and their local knowledges and environmental interests, and mapping these with the interests of governments of different levels and environmental groups, can be a way forward for promoting sustainability. But, they argue, there remains a lot of work to be done to bind these interests together more coherently.

The BBC recently gave an account that illustrates the gap remaining in forest conservation by bringing people together. Over in the Congo, the BBC report, tensions have arisen between armed ‘eco-guards’ brought into the basin, and the local indigenous peoples seeking to live their lives in the way they wish to, and according to their values of the forest as their home. As eco-guards wade in and take the role of the indigenous peoples as ‘custodians’ of the forest, we must acknowledge but also question the fact that the conflicting interests of the two parties. For example, indigenous people’s homes can become lost to the conservation activities of other groups such as NGO’s and governmental bodies. As Clapp et al (2016) explain, resource remapping remains to be experimental; and it looks like for the forests across the globe, they will continue to do so until we all, as a population of different people, come together to find mutual values for our trees, forests, and planet as a whole.


books_icon Clapp A, Hayter R, Affolderbach J and Guzman L (2016) ‘Institutional thickening and innovation: reflections on the remapping of the Great Bear Rainforest’  Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers doi: 10.1111/tran.12119

60-world2 Kinver M 2016 ‘Conservation efforts ‘failing African rainforests’’ BBC Online

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