By Chris Lang
“Unearthing the myths of global sustainable forest governance” is a paper published earlier this year in Global Sustainability. “One particularly dominant idea is that sustainability problems can be solved by treating them as predominantly economic problems to be solved by market-based instruments or by mobilizing enough financial resources,” the authors note in the Technical Summary. They add that, “In this article, we suggest that ideas like these are not only challenged by available scientific evidence about the best way to tackle the global forest crisis, but also produce socio-institutional lock-ins.”
The authors of the paper are Izabela Delabre (University of Sussex Business School), Emily Boyd (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies), Maria Brockhaus (Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry and Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science, Helsinki University), Wim Carton (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies), Torsten Krause (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies), Peter Newell (School of Global Studies, University of Sussex), Grace Y. Wong (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University), and Fariborz Zelli (Department of Political Science, Lund University).
They write that “conventional approaches to governing forests predominantly focus on establishing and protecting private property rights, creating markets and mobilizing private finance, and they fail to effectively – and equitably – address the underlying drivers of deforestation”.
The authors identify five persistent myths in forest governance:
1. States manage forests independently for societal benefit;
- 2. Sustainable forest management is threatened by small-scale farmers and people seeking a living on the forest margins;
- 3. Markets are the solution to deforestation and forest degradation;
- 4. What is counted – through valuation – counts; and
- 5. Sustainable forest governance initiatives currently ‘include’ local communities in decision-making.
Each of these myths is associated with a type of “lock-in”, resulting in forests being managed to serve particular actors and their interests. The authors write,
Underlying the definition of a problem such as deforestation – as well as the proposal, design and practice of ‘solutions’ such as carbon forestry, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and private forest governance – is the creation and discarding of particular meanings (Dryzek, 1997; Hajer & Versteeg, 2005). As sets of ideas, concepts or categorizations, discourses represent dominant perspectives and knowledge regimes through which meaning is given to physical and social realities (Arts et al., 2010; Hajer, 1995). The dominance of certain discourses and narratives in global forest politics supports and strengthens the conditions for business as usual (Nielsen, 2014; Zelli et al., 2019).
Global commitments, ongoing deforestation
Despite the adoption of various global commitments supposedly to protect forests (such as the New York Declaration and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020), deforestation and degradation continue.
“Unearthing myths that are taken for granted helps to expose complexities and open up debate on more sustainable and equitable ways forward,” the authors write.
In a press release about the paper, Torsten Krause, one the authors, notes that,
Last but not least, we have to recognise that our current consumption patterns plays a major part in incentivising deforestation and mismanagement of forests around the world. Only if we can see these global networks and interactions and, ultimately, our role in these, can we start to do something about them.
The paper includes a table summarising the five myths, their effects, and how they could be countered (click on the image for a larger version):
Over the next few weeks, REDD-Monitor will look at each of the myths highlighted in this paper, as part of the REDD myths series of posts.
PHOTO Credit: Brazilian Amazon fire, 1 August 2020 – Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project.