Forests are the living wealth of the world - the foundations for development, giving us the air we breathe, the food we eat, the materials we need… and our medicines.

Costa Rica's many species of trees prevent soil erosion by anchoring the soil with their roots, while the photosynthesis taking place in their leaves provides the oxygen that we breathe. The forest canopy is home to many bird species, while foxes, rabbits, mice and other animals burrow in the roots.

Each tree is a living community. Tropical rainforests, covering only 8 per cent of the land surface of the planet, harbour 50 per cent of the world's species. For 3,000 years, the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica have followed a lifestyle that enables them to live in harmony with this environment. They take what they need from the forest and want for nothing, finding the food and shelter they need to stay healthy.

But what about the rest of us? Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have taken more than we really need, using up the forests' resources with barely a thought for future generations. Deforestation has largely denuded our planet and seriously endangered thousands of species. We must heighten awareness of these important issues, and must involve indigenous peoples, who have a deep respect for all living things, in the process. Conservation means caring for, understanding and using our natural resources sustainably.


Only a few countries in the world still have tropical forests. The production systems that we rely on are endangering life on earth. Indiscriminate exploitation has destroyed more of the planet in the last 100 years than in the whole of humankind's previous history.

It is everyone's responsibility to save our forests, for our survival on earth depends on them.

Paola Parra Cordero, 18, Costa Rica
Paola Parra Cordero's family has lived sustainably in Costa Rica's forests for generations, supporting themselves through farming and, more recently, leading expeditions of ecotourists.

      photo: Christia/UNEP/Topham  
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