Letter: Forest shock

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Sir: Your report "Amazon forest `will be dead in 50 years' " (3 November) which revealed the latest predictions of the Met Office's model of global climate, made truly shocking reading. The implications of the destruction of the Amazon and other tropical forests are uncountable. Should we feel the deepest regret for the disappearance of the Yanomami Indians and many millions of forest-dependent peoples or for the hundreds of thousands of species that will be lost forever? This is almost too great a disaster to contemplate, but it is not inevitable.

Yes, climate change is happening and anecdotal evidence suggests that the forests of Amazonia and South-east Asia have been increasingly prone to drought in recent years. This has allowed forest fires in the last 18 months to take hold as never before. But it is the actions that we are taking now and in the next few years that will decide the future of the Amazon.

The industrial world needs to dramatically reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, which means tough decisions, increasing our energy efficiency and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. For the world's forests to survive, in addition to mitigating the effects of climate change, we must ensure deforestation is curbed, that forest protected area networks are established, and that sustainable forest management as advocated by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) becomes the norm and not the exception.

These are not just decisions for governments but for every one of us. Yes, there is much that hinges on the outcome of the climate negotiations in Buenos Aires but companies and individuals can act to reduce their contribution to climate change. They can also act to buy only wooden products endorsed by the Forest Stewardship Council, to contribute to a future for forests and not their destruction. Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

Steve Howard

WWF Forests for Life Campaign

Godalming, Surrey