Behind the Billboard of Contrived Retention Forests

March 27, 2018


One of the reasons there are becoming fewer and fewer of me, is the human evaluation of my existence as a mere means of resource for their “collection of things”. Subsequently, according to their socially-related scale of categorisation, I am specified as an inventory object subject to their disposal (Appadurai, 2006). For instance my adopted purpose in Sweden, the world’s second largest exporter of paper, pulp and sawn wood products.¹ However, as I am in fact a living and breathing organism nurturing and protecting Earth’s natural habitat, some humans deem my existence as just that, an object of nature. This categorisation has led to the need of then having to preserve objects of the natural habitat: the notion of retention forests.

The boundless harvesting of forests for the creation of man’s momentary desired objects cause severe environmental ramifications. In an attempt to subdue this exhaustion, a new approach has been formulated in The Swedish Forestry Model which commenced over two decades ago. It is based on the retention, at the time of harvesting, of structures and organisms living within the forest’s natural environment. The retention of areas containing living and dead trees aims to maintain biodiversity and sustain ecological functions, acting as a continuation in the landscape – a life boat for species to be able to survive the destruction of their matured and complex original habitat.

Retention patches are located adjacent to production forestry, lakes, wetlands and often in Sweden, along highways. The allocated position of retention forests alongside roads is rather questionable. Essentially these seemingly uninterrupted stretches of trees seen by commuters paint a pretty picture – one filled with fertile, biodiverse and limitlessly untouched land – perhaps serving as a metaphor for Sweden’s reputation for sustainable forestry.² What lays behind this billboard of contrived retention forests?

Clearcut fields. Once vivacious, resilient organisms of Earth filled with a diversity of creatures lurking in the depths of the forest, forest that dates back to centuries ago. Once harvested, the former forests are replaced by industrial tree plantations. These plantations are not even distinguished from natural forest-ecosystems when accounting for the quantity of forest, despite being detrimentally different. Within this difference lies the explanation as to why a seemingly sustainable forestry management isn’t what is seems.

The conversion leads to documented severe reduce in biodiversity, the small remaining natural areas cannot support viable populations of affected local species. Trees such as Scots Pine’s do no longer reach the age of 700 years which allow them to die a natural death, in plantations they are cut at the age of 60-90 which does not allow for species relying on dead trees to survive. The forests are unable to regenerate naturally as they are deliberately replaced, which in turn reduces soil fertility in terms of nutrient content and moisture retention capacity which ultimately undermines long-term land productivity. Within plantations the micro-climate also changes which weakens the ecological resistance to extreme climatic and environmental changes.³

Ultimately, I will eternally be objectified. Despite the classification, humanity’s materialistic appetite will prevail and render me extinct; either through their industrialised conversion of me into a temporal commodity or through their belated objective to return me back to my initial purpose as being part of untainted nature.



Appadurai, Arjun. ‘The Thing Itself’ in Public Culture, 18.1, 2006.

Grosz, Elizabeth. ‘The Thing’ in Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

¹ The Swedish Forest Industries – facts and figures (2012). Skogs Industrierna, Swedish Forest Industries Federation.

² Under the Cover of the Swedish Forestry Model (2011), Malin Sahlin, Swedish Society for Nature Reservation, accessed on 28th March 2018;

Click to access under-the-cover-of-the-swedish-forestry-model_lagupplost.pdf

³ The Swedish experience: Shrinking forests – Expanding tree plantations (2016). Amanda Tas, Protect the Forest.

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