Light and dark blur edges,
ethereal mingles with matter,
and self emerges from I.
The forests of France are expanding.
Once upon a time, the forests of France were dense and dangerous. They were a rich source of food and firewood, but hostile to the people of that age. They were the ‘outside’, or ‘foris’ in latin, deriving to ‘forest’ today.
Then, increasing populations, and ploughing of land for crops, brought about a vast enterprise of forest clearing. By the middle ages it was at its greatest, when wood was used for everything, and what forest remained was exploited for grazing and fuel. Only two hundred years ago, 8 million hectares of todays forest was degraded, and the government recognised the need to reverse problems of soil erosion. For purely ecological reasons, a new ‘Code forestier français’ (forest law) was introduced in 1827. Its aim was to protect living forests, and replant those lost.
Despite setbacks during the years since, such as storms, droughts, fire and disease, the forests of France have doubled in area, and quadrupled in density. As farmland has been abandoned over recent years, spontaneous regeneration has taken place. Today there are 14 million hectares of forest distributed throughout France. The largest areas of reforestation lie in the Massif Central, Brittany, Provence Alps, and here in Aquitaine. Species are varied, oak being the predominant, then beech, hornbeam and chestnut. Fir trees grow in the Vosges mountains, and pine along the coast of Aquitaine.
The once hostile ‘outside’ has become a treasured necessity for all. We recognise its importance in the hierachy of the eco system, for its community, and not least, its social, and psychological benefits for human wellbeing.
NB. Redrafted extracts of a Corporate Document, written by Jean Gadant, for the Food and Agricultural Organisation.