Featured image for “Shaping the Forest of Tomorrow Together.”
March 25, 2022

Shaping the Forest of Tomorrow Together.

Our young fellow Mathilde Eon had the opportunity to represent the voice of young people concerned about their future in the face of an accelerating climate crisis at a high-profile panel discussion on the future of forests. In so doing, she talked about the key role of forests in the fight against the climate crisis. As you may know, forests are carbon sinks that can help us buy time to tackle the climate crisis by changing our lifestyle and – above all – reducing CO2 emissions and switching to renewable energies.

On February 25th, 2022, I had the chance to be invited to speak at “Les Assises de la Foret”, an event organized by the Wallonia region in Belgium to discuss the future of forests. The event gathered experts who testified in their own fields on the current challenges and evolutions of forests in Europe. This meeting was the starting point of a consultation process that will aim to shape the forest management policy of the Wallonia region for the coming years.

Video: If you want to have a look at our ambassador’s talk, here is the link to her intervention (in french, starting at 3:50:00): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEechSblfvQ&t=14326s

Amongst the different 20 panelists and speakers were ministers, politicians, professors and PhDs, public servants and foresters as well as environmental defenders and representatives of the wood industry. As a young person currently completing my civic service at Plant-for-the-Planet, I was asked to represent the voice of the younger generations. The journalist mediating the panel, Virginie Hess, asked me what the youth wished to see in the future when it comes to forest.

The answer is quite simple. We wish for forests to still be around, as big and tall as ever. But the truth is, we are scared. We, the younger generations, are very connected. We know what is happening in the Amazon rainforest and in so many other places in the world. Many of us fear that the experience we had in forests as kids will not be something we will be capable of sharing with the generations coming after us. We want forests to remain and continue to grow, with the diversity that constitutes their beauty and make them essential to life on Earth.

The journalist then proceeded to ask whether decision-makers listened to the youth enough when it came to topics such as environmental protection and the climate crisis.

The thing is, the youth of today is the one that will live in the future we are building now. In 2050, I will be 52, just halfway through my life. And because we are the ones who will experience this future, it is vital that not only we be given a voice, but that decision-makers actively listen to what we have to say. If there has been a lot of progress in the past few years thanks to movements like Fridays for Future and the work of organizations like Plant-for-the-Planet, we, as a society, can do better. We must do better.

Virginie Hess then asked whether action had become the way for the youth to get involved in the discussions around the climate.

To this, I replied that many of us suffer from eco-anxiety from fearing the future and feeling powerless. Being loud, mobilizing and marching for our future, sometimes even refusing to go to school to protest the inaction of our decision-makers has become our way to make our voice heard. Action became our cure to eco-anxiety. We made the choice to stand up because despite how uncertain the future looks, we want to make sure we did everything we could to see a day where the air is pure, the oceans are clean, the forests are wide and the trees stand tall.

Author: Mathilde Eon, Volunteer ecological year at Plant-for-the-Planet