A woman collects firewood from a forest in Bangladesh [© G.M.G Akash/Panos Pictures/Uniphoto Press]

Walk into a forest, and as the sunlight scatters through the tree canopies above onto the moss-covered tree trunks below, one becomes aware of the multitude of birds, animals, insects and plants that inhabit the Earth. Forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the species on the planet. They are the vital organs of the Earth, breathing oxygen into the air, protecting freshwater resources and fertilizing land. Forests are also home to 60 million diverse indigenous people and contribute directly to the livelihoods of some 1.6 billion people, including those who live in cities far removed from forests. Materials for the houses we live in, the paper we use, the medicines we depend on--many of these things originate in the forest.

For this reason, learning how to harvest finite forest resources in a sustainable manner is of great concern to us all. As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states, "Only by living in harmony with the natural environment in a give-and-take relationship is it possible for man to develop his own life creatively. Based on this approach, Buddhism teaches that the relationship between man and nature is not one of opposition but of mutual dependence."

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, each year, trees roughly spanning an area the size of Greece are cut down, often with negative effects on the people and ecosystems that depend on them. However, there are also hopeful stories of local communities and countries that have successfully reforested and revived once depleted lands, proving that it is not too late to plant seeds of positive change.

This issue of the SGI Quarterly seeks to emphasize our close connection to the world of forests and inspire a sense of appreciation, not simply for the beauty and wonder of trees, but for the vital role of forest ecosystems in sustaining our planet and, ultimately, our own lives.