Forest mass increases with the development of productive forces

There has been a remarkable increase in forest mass in Europe, said Belgian MEP Benoit Lutgen yesterday. In 25 years the area covered by forests has grown to an extent equivalent to that of Portugal.

The continent is now a greener place. In Spain, the forest mass has increased from 13.81 million hectares in 1990 to 18.42 in 2017 according to the FAO. This is equivalent to an increase of 25 percent in 27 years.

This is nothing new. There are more forests today than 100 years ago on the Old Continent. The forest mass has increased. Last year, Dutchman Richard Fuchs of Wageningen University confirmed this again (1).

A century ago, wood was used for almost everything: as fuel, to produce metal, furniture and housing, so that by 1900 there were already very few forest areas in Europe. After World War II, however, the use of other energy sources, such as coal, increased, along with the reduction of arable land and migration to the city.

Consequently, if at the beginning the development of productive forces reduced the forest mass, nowadays it is the other way around. Forest growth is typical of more developed countries, according to Pekka E. Kauppi, a researcher at the University of Helsinki (2).

Kauppi calls it “forest transition” and it is a change that in the more developed countries started already in the 19th century. The forest transition began first in Western European countries, then in Central Europe and the Eastern United States, followed by Northern and Eastern Europe, Japan and New Zealand.

The emigration from the countryside to the city then has its reverse side when a part of the population returns to the countryside, no longer in a labor force condition but as a Sunday worker. They like the forests but find them changed. They reluctantly admit that, in fact, there is no deforestation in Europe, but they point out that the current forests are “of poorer quality” (3). The more the better” does not apply. The new forests are “worse” than the old ones, they are less lush, younger?

It is true that there is no deforestation, say others, but “the forest mass grows without control and increases the risk of fire” (4). They are tempted to say that the best thing to do is to finish with the forests before they burn or that the autonomous communities should intervene on them, as if they were gardens. Sunday people have built second homes in areas that forests are beginning to invade and they fear that a fire will destroy them.

A forest is not only a natural ecosystem, a “lung”, whose evolution can be analyzed from a biological point of view. Production relations must be taken into account. In Spain, forests were privatized with the disentailment of 1833. They ceased to be collective property and became a commodity. Most of them were expropriated and a minority appropriated them, in a manner similar to arable land.

Under capitalism a forest is a means of production and its history changes with the development of capitalism. In Europe there are more forests and more trees, but the exploitation of forests for various industrial uses has also increased.


Translated with (free version)

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