Published September 21, 2011
"You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest,
and I smile, and am silent,
and even my soul remains quiet:
it lives in the other world
which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom,
The water flows."
Li Bai (701-762), Chinese Poet of the Tang Dynasty
As my travels end after several weeks of reporting on the crises facing China's forests, I turn back to look again at some of the faces that I have encountered over the course of this journey.
These 'Faces in the Forest' represent something quite interesting to me. They show not only the diversity of people in the southwestern province of Sichuan, but also highlight the relationship between the people and the forest itself. It is this relationship, this uneasy and fragile balance, that fascinates me and offers an insight into the people of this region.
From local people's homes in the mountainous forests, to the numerous bamboo factories, to the national parks, the people of the southwest's forests are linked by their intimate relationship to the land. They have welcomed me and allowed me to photograph them. Each one has a role in the future of protecting the region's forests and ensuring their survival.
On the whole, the forest's loss has been halted in southwest China. However, beyond the propaganda, many challenges still remain from over-harvesting of plants for traditional medicine usage, mono-cultured forests and severe habitat fragmentation.
As I hope my reporting has demonstrated over the past month, these new challenges continue to seriously threaten both the flora and fauna of this valuable biodiversity hotspot.
As the UN's International Year of Forest draws to an end, its resolution points at the key to the future of the protection of the world's forests: "Efforts should focus on raising awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations."
Changing attitudes, from the grass roots level through to government, is perhaps the only way in which the remaining forests of southwest of China can be saved.