Kathy Abusow

by Kathy Abusow

My mission is to promote responsible forestry — to keep forests as forests. 

My journey to my August 24, 2016, TEDx talk is still underway. I’m trying to distill my passion, my life’s work, into an eight-minute presentation. I feel like I have been given a mission to produce the ultimate elevator speech about the critical importance of responsible forestry. It’s tough but worthwhile. Developing my TEDx talk is sharpening my focus. It’s also about much more than preparing for a single day, it’s affecting how I think about the work I do, and how I communicate it.

I’m confident TEDx will help me spread the message that we need to spread responsible forest practices. To do this, we need to overcome the guilt some people feel about using forest products. I want to use TEDx to help people see how forests fit into our lives from three different angles: environmental, social and economic.

For me, TEDx will help change the conversation around responsible forestry so we can get people to move from a risk to a reward mindset. There are huge risks associated with illegal logging and deforestation. These pressing global problems are linked to devastating communities, violating human rights and destroying habitats. There is also the global impact to consider. The UN attributes up to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions to deforestation.

But I’m determined to use my TEDx talk to help people put things in context. What we are seeing is a dichotomy between jurisdictions with a poor rule of law that enables illegal logging and resulting deforestation, versus jurisdictions with strict regulations and rigorous third-party forest-certification programs. The first is very bad, the second is doing a world of good.

Forests are among our most precious resources. If the wood and the paper you use is from a responsibly managed forest you are making a responsible choice. A choice that provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, high-paying jobs, often in rural communities, and at the same time actually can help our environment because well-managed, working forests filter our water, clean our air and help mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon.

So it’s ok to print it, it’s ok to read a newspaper or curl up with a book, it’s ok to build with it and it’s ok to drink from a paper cup — if it comes from a well-managed forest. By taking these actions and using these products you are valuing the products derived from a forest, which in turn helps to keep forests as forests.

I’m looking forward to TEDx helping me deliver the message that responsible forestry provides us with endless benefits that improve our shared environment and quality of life.

This series of blogs captures the firsthand reactions of the speakers who were selected (from a field of more than 100 applicants) to give talks at the TEDxWilmington Conference on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at the World Cafe Live at the Queen. Tickets are on sale here.