This morning I spoke at a conference organised by the Committee’s Section on Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment on the theme of ‘Facing the Challenge – change in forests and the forestry sector.’ The conference is taking place in Joensuu, the capital of Northern Karelia, and sometimes known as the forest capital of Europe. This spot is the easternmost point of continental Europe. (Mother Russia is very close.) This morning we heard from the city mayor and the regional mayor and two ministers, followed by a number of experts and stakeholders. Speaker after speaker pointed to the advantages of wood and forestry. Forests provide renewable raw materials, they protect biodiversity, they are carbon sinks, they create employment and they provide enjoyment and leisure. Yet the EU’s forestry industry faces all sorts of challenges – not the least of them being to convince people that forestry is a vital industry. I’ll do a separate post on the conference’s content, but I could not help but think that we would do well also to address the cultural and educational aspects of the forestry sector. If you think of our poetry and literature, of our fables and children’s tales, it is clear that the forest is an integral part of our cultural identity. Leaving aside Finland (a special case), the problem in most EU member states is that an urbanised majority know all about forests but nothing about forestry. Most European forests had long sinced being wilderness and almost all of them were managed, yet we have forgotten that forests are not just an optional aesthetic but an economic and environmental necessity.