On Sunday, you’ll learn how to make sure that you’re buying sustainable imported wood products when author of over thirty environmental books, Edward Parker, will launch Sustainability Dorset’s programme of bi-monthly ‘Sustainability Sunday’ talks in Fontmell Magna.
Edward is the Executive Director of the Springhead Trust and he will highlight examples of sustainable forestry, both across the world and around Shaftesbury. “I’ve worked with a number of organisations around the world, which utilise forests in a way that gives them long term security. I thought it would be interesting to show links between the UK and the wider world,” said Edward.
Edward says you should look for the FSC mark on wood products. “I can show links from Homebase to Vietnam. You can look at what’s called a Forest Stewardship Certified piece of furniture, which has got FSC written on it. This provides a ‘chain of custody’ and you can follow the route way back, pretty much to the stump where the tree was harvested in Vietnam or in Java,” he said. “There you can ask the people whose forest it is what their management system is. It gives big companies a route to find out how sustainable their products are when they sell them in the UK.”
“It’s like food provenance – tracing your meals – but in this case we can track down the source of items like garden patio furniture,” added Edward.
During Sunday’s talk, he will share the tools people need to make sure that the wood products that they’re buying are sustainable. “There are a number certification bodies and it’s a bit like the Soil Association in terms of organic agriculture,” said Edward. “It’s a way of giving people a symbol they can look for, which makes sure that the timber objects that they’re using have come from a place which isn’t clear felling, destroying an important habitat or displacing people around the world.”
Edward says many countries are now adopting these principles. “It actually happens all over the world these days. When I first started with the Forest Stewardship Council it was only the UK. I went to the first four woodlands that were certified, all in the UK, back in the 1990s and now it’s a global system. So I can go into the Amazon or to Laos and follow up systems,” he said.
The system isn’t perfect though. “In some places, it’s not being implemented as well as it could be,” warned Edward. “On the island of Borneo, there tends to be clear felling. But there are some really good examples in Indonesia and in South America. I also documented the first ever tropical hardwood forest that fitted in with this system in the Congo a few years ago.”
Edward’s talk will be about his global travels as an environmentalist, writer and photographer but there will also be stories from closer to home. “I thought it would be interesting to talk about sustainable forestry and sustainable woodland management in Dorset, in a historical context,” he said. “I will show how sophisticated the system used to be here. Woodlands around us, like Duncliffe, were mostly working woods only 100 years ago. The structure of the woods today is man-manipulated, not only to supply sustainable timber but also to maintain an environment and to have a sustainable resource for the future.”
Edward says sustainable forestry practices here in the Westcountry can be traced back through the centuries. “There is widespread coppicing, where you cut a tree like hazel down to a stump every nine or ten years. It produces a series of poles that you can cut down again and it gives you a sustainable resource,” said Edward. “It became widespread in the UK after the Roman invasion, 2,000 years ago, but it goes back as far as the Mesolithic period. Even before the Romans, there’s evidence that there was coppicing in the Somerset Levels about 4,500 years ago. It’s a long-standing tradition in human management of natural resources.”
Edward says you can see ancient examples of coppicing in and around Shaftesbury. “In Duncliffe Woods, which is a Woodland Trust managed woodland, there are reputed to be several limes that are over 1,000 years old and which have been coppiced for that entire time,” he said. “You can see examples of coppicing and get a really good idea of what coppicing can do for the understory – the local flora. Where areas have been coppiced, it lets more light through. You tend to get a better show of bluebells and the system has to continue for the bluebells to continue to thrive. The Woodland Trust has a system where they coppice different areas to make sure that the bluebells have sufficient light in the spring.”
Sunday’s event is the first Sustainable Dorset bi-monthly session. Edward says the meetings will address a wide range of sustainability issues and projects over the year ahead. “There will be a lot of talks about sustainable and renewable energy. And there’ll be talks on different ways of reducing our impact locally on Dorset and also reducing our impact on global resources as well.”
Edward Parker will talk in the Upper Mill Room of the Springhead Trust in Fontmell Magna between 4pm and 6pm on Sunday, 14thApril. Admission costs £2 for Sustainable Dorset members and £4 for non-members. The proceeds will fund Sustainable Dorset and Agenda 21.