The Hot Zone

SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Posted by Alison Hawkes on December 10, 2009
Category : Climates of the Past

by Erica Rex

Although we all like to think the world began the day we were born, and will end the day we die, in fact some of the very conservation issues being discussed in Copenhagen this week began life and were legislated about by political leaders very long ago.

Dr. Roger Short, who originally trained as a veterinarian, is a leading expert in reproduction at Melbourne University in Australia. He also collects antiquarian books. One of his books, John Manwood’s book of 1615, A Treatise of the Lawes of the Forest (London: Societie of Stationers, 1615) contains an even earlier set of forest management rules: King Canute of Denmark’s forest laws.

Among the interesting details of these laws, two in particular caught my attention. Law number 23, declares: “He that doth hunt a wilde beast & doth make him paunt shall pay 10 shillings. If he be not a free man, then he shall pay double. If he bee a bound man, he shall lose his skin.”

Law number 29 declares: “If any man do cut downe a Holly Tree, or any other Tree in the Forest, which doth beare fruit for food for the wild beasts… he shall paie twenty shillings to the King for a recompence.”

I wonder what sort of recompense carbon emitters are going to pay to populations whose forests are so compromised by climate change they can no longer live, nor eat nor survive. I’m dying of curiousity to see what laws will emerge from the climate conference in 2009 to protect the forest.

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