The Fire Next Time: Deforestation and Climate Emergency

by Lynn Feinerman Producer, Women Rising Radio

In November of 2021 the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland boasted of its Leaders’ Declaration to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.  The monumental hypocrisy and duplicity of this announcement, hailing signatories from 145 nations, is that the declaration replaced a similar one made in COP21 in 2015, wherein heads of state worldwide announced that deforestation would be halted by 2020.

Having nothing much else to announce, the PR spinners for COP 26 cynically threw this at the media as if it was a big breakthrough from the Glasgow summit.  It wasn’t. 

And in fact, this month the Forest Declaration Platform Assessment reported that “not a single global indicator is on track to meet these 2030 goals of stopping forest loss and degradation and restoring 350 million hectares of forest  landscape.” 

Experts warn that there is no way to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius unless the world stops cutting trees – no matter for what purpose.  That means that somehow, global grassroots communities are going to have to rise up and demand an end to the devastation of forests for roadways, access to petroleum and mining, timber and agricultural lands use, and any other enterprise.    

States and their corporate puppeteers have mobilized both their militaries and police to crush any grassroots uprisings.  To get a sense of just what kind of violence and manipulation grassroots activists are up against when they organize to stop the destruction of forests, you can listen to our Women Rising Radio program titled “Deforestation Emergency”, and listen to the stories of women from the US to Chile to Paraguay and to the Netherlands, who are battling against deforestation:

Panic sets in when experts intone that high finance will be required to meet the 2030 goal of an end to deforestation.  The Forest Declaration Platform Assessment states that “it will cost up to USD 450 billion per year to protect, restore, and enhance forests on a global scale.  Currently, domestic and international mitigation finance for forests averages USD 2.3 billion per year – less than 1 per cent of the necessary total.”           

And to make matters worse, a great deal of the allotment and “investment” in stopping deforestation is in programs like monoculture tree plantations that benefit the “investors”  and do not restore the kind of forests desperately needed to help halt climate chaos. 

As Simone Lovera of the Global Forest Coalition says in our Women Rising Radio program, corporations like Shell, Total and other fossil fuel giants will invest in monoculture tree plantations as a “nature based solution” when the monoculture tree plantations are anything but “nature  based” and ignite like fire bombs in any conflagration. 

But of course these plantations bring subsidies and other profits to the corporations that disingenuously invest in them. 

And the worst thing about these fake “nature based solutions” is that they still enable the cutting of the crucial old-growth forest stands, that have evolved for eons as truly nature based communities that function as organic, whole systems that are the only real hope for protection against the desertification and horrific fires that we are now seeing across the globe. 

In fact, I question the need, advanced by the Forest Declaration Platform Assessment, for a vast and unobtainable amount of money to accomplish the goal of deforestation by any date.  Instead, I ask that the experts who’ve written that Assessment demand that the world place what is left of our precious forests in the hands of the good leadership of Indigenous People and Local Communities (“IP” and “LC”) who live near these forests and who’ve lived with the forests for thousands of years.

Without the “benefit” of massive amounts of money, IP and LC societies have known how to support and strengthen the forests since time immemorial.   And they desperately need the work, the renewal and respect that their own leadership would bring them. 

Key to stopping deforestation is banning multinational corporations and their owned and operated states, and their owned and operated militaries and police, from forests worldwide.  There is no other way. 

The American writer James Baldwin quoted a black slave’s song when he wrote his book “The Fire Next Time”.  “God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next  time”. 

Let’s take that as a warning, and a clear and present danger.