If there was anywhere to shoot our latest campaign centred around the theme of bringing the outside in, it had to be Jamaica. As one of the world's most biodiverse islands, it ranks fifth for the amount of endemic plant life: nature is abundant and elemental there.
Jamaica's forests cover around a third of the island and are home to about 3,200 known species of flowering plants, 600 species of ferns, and 256 known species of birds. Aside from the forests’ role in biodiversity and the ecosystem, they support the livelihoods of people in the area and are particularly important for the well-being of rural communities and people living at or below the poverty line.
However, a threat to Jamaica’s forests has been present for decades. A study published in 2001 reported that it was losing its forest cover at a rapid rate, with further research confirming that between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost 2.3% of its forest cover which is around 8,000 hectares, or the equivalent of 15,000 American football fields. “Due to the dependency of its largely poor population on the many services and functions its forests provide, this loss threatens to have substantial socioeconomic and ecological consequences for the country,” the 2001 study predicted, and twenty years later, the repercussions of deforestation are manifold.
During our team’s visit, they experienced adverse weather conditions including the heavy rainfall that has damaged over 280 roads and caused devastating floods and landslides that have claimed lives, homes and livelihoods. Deforestation causes soil erosion as tree roots hold soil in place and tree canopies cushion the force of rain on the forest floor. Our local shoot producer Lauren Watkis said “It’s been the worst year I can remember for weather. It’s disrupted a lot of work and I know people who have lost their homes and are still waiting on aid.”
A landslide encountered during the campaign shoot
Deforestation is a key contributor to global climate change, which occurs due to an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. With less trees, less carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activity such as burning fossil fuels) is absorbed and less oxygen is produced. Additionally, when a tree is felled or burnt through slash-and-burn practices, often for agricultural and industrial purposes, it releases stored carbon dioxide into the air. It is estimated that emissions from tropical forest loss added approximately 7.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2017. This warms up the earth, increasing evaporation from water sources like oceans and soil, and results in disruption in rainfall across the globe, intensifying downpours in certain areas.
To combat the risk of more intense hurricanes, rising sea levels and drying across the island—half of which is made up of forests—this year, Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to submit a tougher climate plan to the United Nations, adding forestry emissions and land use change, and toughening goals for energy. The Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) also provides grants to communities under the Forest Conservation Fund (FCF), with projects providing sustainable livelihood opportunities like bee-keeping and eco-tourism.
Though actions are underway, the climate issue is urgent and unignorable. Forest conservation and sustainable sourcing are key to mitigating some of the damage caused by deforestation, which is why FOREST LUNGS uses sustainably-sourced ingredients, such as cedarwood extract from waste sawdust, and we have donated trees to One Tree Planted and the Woodland Trust.
Find out more about the importance of Jamaica’s forests here.