The Japanese have inspired the world to appreciate the benefits of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing, by certifying forests that research has shown to be therapeutic for human beings. Studies have found that Japan’s old-growth forests of cypress and cedar release phytoncides that have a calming effect on people who are immersed in their atmosphere, by lowering their blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol and boosting production of natural killer cells.
And yet, in our time, we are witnessing the global dismantling of forests that have pre-dated and outlived the dinosaurs. Old-growth forests are our single largest carbon sinks, and the older trees grow, the more carbon they store; they’re also crucial for freshwater and biodiversity conservation. India now retains little of its old-growth forests that were decimated by various ruling powers. Even so, during the pandemic, between 2019 and 2020, India lost about 14% of its tropical forest cover, according to Global Forest Watch. Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland have seen the most reduction.
The world’s forests are going the way of glaciers, The Guardian reported earlier this year. From the Amazon to Siberia’s boreal forests, landscapes are being changed beyond recognition by practices like deforestation and the phenomena of climate change. These living legacies aren’t just being decimated by wildfire, drought and logging. Trees that take centuries to mature are not growing back, as the world is turning too hot for them to handle.
Even as we do our bit to protect our environment, now is the time to visit the world’s most ancient forests and support the local communities that are losing their homes and sustainable livelihoods. Here are a few of the world’s most iconic wild places.