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Sunday, December 10, 2023

The branch we’re sitting on: International Forest Day

Around one third of the world is covered with forests; according to the United Nations and the environmental organization WWF, the global woodlands are decreasing g steadily. Woods are deforested for agriculture, animal husbandry and timber trade, or suffer from invasive alien species. The loss of land has serious consequences, as the ecosystems are essential for humans, animals and plants, and are home to the world’s largest biological diversity. Aiming to raise awareness for the importance of forests, the International Forest Day has been taking place on March 21 annually since 2013. Forests protect against natural disasters by reducing the risk of floods, droughts, and landslides. They offer places to recreate, help the health, fix roots in the soil and also secure jobs, serve the climate as well balance the oxygen, CO2 and humidity in the air. Therefore, it is very important far-sighted personalities and institutions are committed to the preservation and reforestation of woodlands.

Browsing for the climate

Back in 2009, the green search engine Ecosia recognized the political and social importance of trees and developed a unique business: Revenues generated by search queries are invested for reforestation in areas particularly affected by clear-cutting. At least 80 % of the profits are used to finance trees in countries such as Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. Reforestation not only counteracts climate change, but also creates new landscapes and revitalizes the soil, thus, creating land for agriculture, new jobs and habitats for animals.

Bathing amidst treetops

When building The Tongsai Bay, the founder Akorn Hoontrakul knew about the importance of the trees and during the construction no trees were felled to protect the natural beauty of the tropical island for future generations. The Eco-Resort is “a spot on Koh Samui where trees are not felled, no insecticides or chemical fertilizers are used in the green hotel grounds and humans are kind to animals,” Thanakorn Hoontrakul, the founder’s son and current owner describes. During the construction phase, the local topography was considered resulting in a unique architecture: for instance, in some cottages boulders were integrated into the interior, and some of the villa balconies were constructed around trees. On a neighboring ground, the dedicated hotel team also planted another 130 trees to further develop the island’s distinctive charm and create a natural habitat for wildlife.

Outlook for awareness

In the treetops of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, visitors literally get a different perspective of the forest: at about 98 ft. above the ground, the Canopy Walkway at Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica runs through the branches of the majestic tropical woods. During the unique excursion visitors can explore and learn about the diversity of the rainforest, thus, generating awareness of this important ecosystem. After all, the Amazon Rainforest covers six percent of the entire earth’s surface, 61 percent of Peru, is home to ten percent of the world’s biological diversity and important for the global climate protection. Lucky travelers will discover various birds, monkeys, snakes, insects and flower species in the dense branches, including toucans, woodpeckers, anacondas, ants, and orchids.

Japanese Health Culture in the Black Forest

Additionally, to their importance for the environment and climate, forests also foster our well-being and mental resilience. Shinrin Yoku, better known as forest bathing, comes from Japan and has been proven to strengthen the immune system, lower stress hormones increase vitality and counteract depression, anxiety and anger. Forest bathing is increasingly offered in Western countries because of its health-promoting effect. Therefore, forest bathing is also practiced in the sustainable destination Bad Herrenalb along the Albtal Trail. Participants can appreciate the healing atmosphere of the Black Forest for about 3.5 hours while recreating and unwinding.

Back to the roots

Instead of forest bathing, guests of the Indian Wild Mahseer nature hotel can find tranquility and peace during jungle bathing – and recharge in the native forest of the Eastern Himalayan Botanic Ark. A special experience in the spacious, predominantly unspoiled area is exploring the trees at close range: Visitors come near to the forests when “hugging trees”: the subtle “pulse” of the trees has a calming effect on humans and, thus, promotes health in a similar way to forest bathing.

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