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Who is afraid of the forest?

Josephine Condemi
a story by
Josephine Condemi
Who is afraid of the forest?

Dear readers,

Every minute, an area equivalent to nearly ten football pitches is deforested worldwide. In 2023 alone, according to the Forest Pulse report by the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland, we lost 3.7 million hectares of primary tropical forest. This is less than in 2022, similar to the losses in 2019 and 2021. Each tree lost means more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, fewer roots to hold the soil and prevent landslides and erosion, higher temperatures, and fewer resources for the sustenance of billions of people. Forests host about 80% of the terrestrial biodiversity on the planet: animal and plant species that make the ecosystem liveable for us humans as well.

Deforestation often goes hand in hand with flattening the landscape, violently clearing space for a reason deemed superior, and eliminating what is seen as an obstacle to a particular model (of economy, society, development, or life). Forests thrive on biodiversity, while deforestation thrives on the repetition of the identical: can we still feel that what we consider different enriches our lives in one way or another?

In the West, forests and woods have always been the “other” places compared to the city: places where usual social rules do not apply, hence places of unexpected encounters, dangerous experiences, and courageous explorations. Places of imposed exiles or voluntary relocations, places labelled as “wild” in contrast to a “civilisation” built on the dogmas of self-sufficient rationality and dominance over nature. 

The forest has always been considered “dark” in some way: in this month’s Mangrovia, we asked ourselves if it is still this darkness of the forest that we fear. The fear of getting lost in a forest where the usual points of reference are missing and where we might struggle to find new ones. The fear of putting ourselves to the test and taking risks, to discover different paths. The fear of discovering that we can only survive together.

This month, therefore, the stories you will read in this magazine and listen to in the Zenit podcast will focus on people who have chosen to study, explore, and protect woods and forests, sharing aspects of them that are not always well-known: from underwater kelp forests to UV photography, from the link between forest and memory to plant communication, from how monkeys help safeguard the ecosystem they live into the data forests that do not always serve to extract data from forests. As always, we will strive to analyse without dissecting, to describe without lingering in despair or euphoria, and to remain rooted in our contemporary world which, perhaps more than ever, needs to make peace with the mystery and otherness of the forests that nourish it.


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