Healing Forests: Potential Policy?


 “The international society is in pursuit of sustainable forest management — to optimize various forest functions, for both the present and next generations…we continue to manage forests sustainably, to improve broader multiple functions and values of our forests”. -- Dr. Shin, Forest Minister of South Korea.

South Korea has embraced the “medicalization of nature” to the extent where thirty-four “Healing Forests” have been planned near major towns. Approximately 500 health rangers (as opposed to forest rangers) are hired in the “Cradle-to-Grave: Life with Forests” policy.  For persons of all ages, forest medicine/therapy programs have been developed for: prenatal mothers; persons with illness; disabled persons; youth; kindergarten; workers; veterans; seniors, and families.

One health ranger says, “Of course we still use forests for timber, but it is the health area that is the fruit of our forests now”.

Dr. Shin affirms: “we are working under the vision of creating a “green welfare nation”, where forests bring happiness to our people. By establishing a virtuous cycle of various benefits from forests, our goal is to make forests lively places where people live, work and play.  We manage our forests in a well-balanced way, between resource development and restoration, contributing to the national economy, as well as improving quality of life.”

Many overseas governments promote “nature experiences” as public health policy. Finland prescribes 40-minute walks on “power trails” that encourage mindfulness and reflection. Switzerland has “forest kindergartens” where children spend time in the woods, fostering self-confidence/ independence.

In short, what would our communities look like — if we had Healing Forests and programs for all ages — with a vision for “green welfare”…

References: National Geographic: “The Power of Parks”, Jan 2016.