By Nora Skjernaa Hansen, Nature and planning consultant at the Danish Society for Nature Conservation*
Have you ever experienced that someone misinterpreted your words completely? In my opinion, we in the forest sector have spent a lot of time discussing forest issues without really seeing or hearing our counterparts. Time is up for another approach.
What if we all invited each other to walk a mile in our shoes? If I, an environmental lobbyist, invited a forest owner, a forest researcher or a forest bureaucrat? And if I, in return, was invited by a forest entrepreneur and a purchaser from an energy company?
In order to find solutions to the multiple challenges, which are facing the forest sector right now, I think that a minimum of mutual understanding is necessary. It might make a huge difference if we were all a little bit better at listening, hearing, and to a certain extent even understanding, how the other parties think and act and why. It is not necessary to agree with each other. We will always come from different "worlds", with different agendas. But if we can come to accept that the other parties usually have good reasons to think and act as they do, then we have started the journey towards solutions that will satisfy more parties and get us closer to smart and functionally ways to meet the challenges.
The idea is to walk in each other's footsteps for a while, maybe just a single day. I guess it is like being an actress or actor working to get into a new role. Our goal, though, would not be to act a role different from our own, but to get an insight in another person's reality, conditions and emotions. Do we dare letting anyone come that close? Especially someone, whom we might consider being "the enemy"? If we do, my guess is that we will enjoy the walk and be surprised in several ways.
While we walk there, in someone else's footsteps through the woods or corridors of the forest sector, we will probably not only observe the steps of the person walking in front of us, but even come to influence the direction. As mentioned above, the goal of the walk is not to become alike, but to get a basic understanding of the reasons for thinking and acting of other parties in the forest sector. Some of these reasons are probably impressionable. "Feet on" experiences might gradualy help us finding meaningful meeting points of our different interests and missions.
If you have experienced to be misunderstood, as I asked above, I would say congratulations. That means that you have taken time to look and listen how your message was received by the other part and realised that "Houston, we have a problem". Then you have already started the journey towards a better overall understanding between the different parties in the forest sector.
Will this save the forests and the forest sector in the long run? Well, it will for sure make the journey more interesting. The method can even be applied on people outside the forest sector, when you are up for further challenges.
*Nora Skjernaa Hansen is currently on maternity leave
Photo above: Mats Hannerz/Silvinformation