The relationship between human beings and forests has been important for the development of society. It is based on various productive, ecological, social and cultural functions of forests. The cultural functions, including the spiritual and symbolic role of forests, are often not addressed with the same attention as the other functions. The aim of this paper is to put a stronger emphasis on the fact that the acknowledgement of cultural bonds is needed in the discussion of sustainable development. Forest should not only be considered as a technical means to solve environmental and economic problems. To achieve a deeper understanding of the dependency of society on forests, it is necessary to recognise the role of forests in our consciousness of being human. Giving a historical overview about the cultural bonds between people and forests, the first part of the paper puts focus on non-productive aspects in human–forest relationships. Through history, forest values have changed and new functions have emerged. Industrialisation and urbanisation have contributed to an alienation from nature and weakened the connection of humans to forests. The consequences of these changes for the development of society and its environment are discussed in the second part of the paper. Finally, it is elaborated how the awareness of the cultural bonds can be strengthened in the population and especially in forest management; a management which should relate to cultural, emotional and aesthetical aspects, in addition to economic, ecological and social functions, and lead towards a sustainable relationship between forests and society.
Environment, Development and Sustainability, 2012, p. 1-8
Alienation from nature; Culture; Forests; Human–forest relationships; Sustainable Development