Repositioning forests in rural economic development

Indonesia – Every time we pick out a new end table or order a burger, there could be an impact on forests. Rising incomes and ensuing changes of lifestyle and consumer demands, particularly in the world’s skyrocketing Asian markets, don’t come without taxes on the environment – unless we change our strategy, says Jack Hurd, Asia-Pacific Conservation Director for The Nature Conservancy. At the 2018 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit, we spoke to him about rethinking how forests factor into development, if they are to keep giving us the things we want and need.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

What does the 2018 Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit theme “Protecting people and forests, supporting economic growth” mean to you?

Well if you think about it, a lot of countries in the Asia-Pacific region have traditionally been forested countries. Their initial economic growth started with the harvesting of timber and the selling of timber for local markets and for global markets. Forestry has always been part of a broader economic development program for many of the countries. The challenge that is existing right now is the fact that the economic development plan of many countries has favored agricultural expansion, mining expansion and associated infrastructure – at the expense of forests.