When you look toward the future, what do you see?
The year 2050 is not much more than 25 years away—roughly a generation and much less than the typical lifetime. What changes can we expect to see in the years ahead? Population growth will continue, and it’s anticipated that by 2050, the population distribution could be 70 percent urban, up from over 50 percent living in cities today.
The more people, the greater the demand for housing, and greater need for clean air and water. Added to this is the need to protect the health of our planet by removing carbon from the atmosphere. That’s a tall order, but one that forests can address.
Solutions to these challenges share a common component: sustainable forest management.
As a building material for housing, wood is a star. It’s a renewable resource. Mass timber in particular offers valuable properties for builders, even for high-rise structures. It provides a biophilic environment for residents, enhancing life inside the built environment. Mass timber has inherent fire resistance and components for structures can be partially premade off site, which reduces noise and potentially accelerates the construction process. As a building material, less carbon is released during the manufacture and transportation of timber building products. In addition, because the timber comes from trees that absorbed carbon during their lifetimes, the lumber locks in the carbon that has been sequestered. Wood and mass timber building materials also reduce the need for plastics and other non-renewable components.
Choosing to build with wood means that the wood products are coming from a managed forest, one which employs state-of-the-art technologies and best practices for careful harvesting, extensive replanting, and a long-term view that considers forest health in 100-year cycles. Active management of a forest keeps it healthy and protects it from the encroachment of developers and others seeking to put those lands to a different use.
As trees grow, they efficiently take in carbon from the air, providing a carbon sink and each year storing more than one and a half times as much carbon dioxide as the U.S. produces, according to the World Resources Institute.
Using more wood in cities, paying attention to urban development and increasing tree planting in cities, as well as careful stewardship of forested land all point toward a reason to hope for the future. But one more component needs to be added to see the positive change we all seek.
The wider population needs to understand the vital role that wood plays in protecting life and the health of the planet. People need to know all the areas of our daily life where we depend on wood products and how it is harvested and processed. This understanding needs to reach current and future generations and become part of a deeper collective knowledge that explains the truth about trees.
Your work and daily practices support the continued demand for wood and the technologies you apply increase the efficiency of the process. Certainly, too, you strive to communicate the benefits of wood to all those you interact with, but it takes more than that to fuel the change in thinking that’s needed.
Changing hearts and minds about sustainable forestry and wood products, for good, is where the North American Forest Foundation comes in. We’re on a mission to educate 1 million children by 2030, by helping them become #exTREEmelysmart. We provide teachers across North America with Truth About Trees kits for their classrooms—at no charge—to introduce these vital concepts to kids in grades K-3. Each kit reaches a classroom – or more – filled with kids, and helps teachers convey scientific facts that dispel common myths about wood while teaching about the many ways wood touches our daily lives.
The next aspect of our education program, a digital educational tool directed to junior high kids, is in the works. A game structure and age-appropriate topics take the conversation deeper and reinforce the message of truth about trees. Donations to NAFF support the creation and distribution of these engaging educational resources, bringing us closer to reaching our goal and yours.