Environment Counts | The World’s Lungs
An outstanding eight-part article which describes the state of forests and the rising threats they face from human exploitation and climate change. The Economist – Part 1
Forests are indispensable to life on earth as we know it but they’re being chopped down at an alarming rate. As the destruction spreads, so does the economic and environmental impact on the planet and its climate. In an eight-part special report for The Economist, notable for its breadth, sophistication and even-handedness, journalist James Astill clearly explained the stakes and examined the options for action to save the remaining tropical forests. The article was published as a full supplement in The Economist(September 2010) and was the winner of the 2011 environment communications prize of The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.
The problem, Astill wrote, is that forests are undervalued, even by those who depend on them, and changing that fundamental disconnect will require not just creative policies but political will.
Astill traveled thousands of miles to Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Uganda to report first hand on “the world’s lungs” and the critical role forests play in sequestering carbon, regulating runoff, preserving biodiversity and providing livelihoods and food to millions of people. The stories introduced readers to scientists, indigenous communities, loggers and planters who all have a direct interest in the future of forests. The report makes clear that forests today face severe risks but the situation is not hopeless.
Illustrated with stunning photos and revealing maps, this meticulously researched and thoroughly reported series deserves acclaim for spotlighting forests as an often-misunderstood component of the international debate on climate change policy. It pays particular attention to REDD (The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), an international effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by paying people in developing countries not to cut down trees. Astill’s timely reporting generated an enormous public response and its impact was apparent from the broad circulation of the story in advance of last year’s UN climate conference in Cancun, which ended with an agreement on REDD.
To research the series, Astill travelled to the forests of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Uganda, where he interviewed many people trying to protect trees or destroy them. The report was also informed by his previous assignments in the forests of Congo, Cameroon, India, and Kenya, and Astill compiled an impressive and extensive bibliography of forest literature as part of his reporting. To add further context to the series, Astill conducted over one hundred telephone and email interviews with experts in the USA, Australia, Canada, China, Gabon, and Switzerland.
This special issue of The Economist generated a huge response from readers. For the scope and quality of his reporting, and for the significant impact that this series had upon discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2010, James Astill was awarded The Grantham Prize for 2011.
Click here to read Astill’s report in The Economist. The World’s Lungs – 2011 Grantham award – The Economist
The report/supplement is organised in six main parts. The individual sections can be viewed by clicking in the right hand panel headed “In this special report”. A direct link to each of the six parts is listed below, along with a link to an interview with the series author James Astill.
Listen to an Interview with the author James Astill.