Initial Agreement on Religious Forestry Standards
Visby Faith and Forestry Gathering
29th August 2007
Each religion – and indeed almost every tradition within each religion - has a theology of the forest – of why it is important, why people should care for it, and how people should act within it and around it. This is the key answer to “why”. Recognising this, there was an agreement that each faith tradition would look at its own theological reasons for protecting the forests, and draw up an initial document by the third quarter of 2008. Each faith will create an Internal Standard that is consistent with their teachings.
The initial core criteria which were agreed, and now need further development are the quadruple bottom line:
Religious, Environmental, Social, Economic
1. Religiously compatible - based on the faith values, beliefs, heritage and traditions.
2. Environmentally appropriate - ensures that the harvest of timber and non-timber products, as well as care of sacred areas, maintains the forest's biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes. Also, that those who manage the forest pay attention to environmental concerns including recycling, non-use of pollutants, etc.
3. Socially beneficial - helps both local people and society at large to enjoy long term benefits and also provides strong incentives to local people to sustain the forest resources and adhere to long-term management plans.
4. Economically viable - means that forest operations are structured and managed so as to be sufficiently profitable, without generating financial profit at the expense of the forest resources, the ecosystem or affected communities. The tension between the need to generate adequate financial returns and the principles of responsible forest operations can be reduced through efforts to market forest products for their best value.
In addition there are reasons why religions could benefit from signing up to common Religious Forestry Agreement standards. It enables an individual faith which finds itself under pressure to appeal to internationally agreed core standards for faiths and forestry.
• FSC comes from a situation where the industry is populated with hardcore industrial activists, so its guidelines need to be easy to audit and easy to measure success. Most faiths have already integrated much of what FSC is about - so it’s a different arena, and RF agreements/guidelines will be at a different level.
• The term FSC is a trademark, and will not be used in this context. Some faiths might wish to sign up to FSC later, or during this process; this is different.
• It is often helpful when talking to one’s fellow-believers/congregation about changing behaviour about the forests, if we have the strength of being part of a wider movement
• It is also helpful to have a network – informal or formal - of advisors from many forest traditions, exchanging information about how to deal with the issues. Signing up to such guidelines would involve membership of this network.
• There was an agreement from the religions that with ARC they would work on section 1 (the religiously compatible criteria).
• WWF/CI/IUCN/UN delegates would give advice and information on 2, 3 and 4.
** Link here to read some prayers about forests collected from those who attended the Visby meeting.
** Link here to read a powerful poem by artist Bosse Carlgrenabout the Visby conference and the Ise programme.