How I came to realise that Sweden lost its forests

Patrick Westöö
5 min readJan 7, 2021
Our cabin located in Vittsjö in northern Skåne. The southern edge of the taiga.

We have a small house up in the woods of northern Skåne. This is on the southern edge of the taiga, a forest that only 100 years ago was mostly wild, full of wolves and even forest reindeer. But today it is very different than that. It’s a forest that looks nothing like the old forests of pasts. When I was young I always liked the forest around our house. It’s very small but it is full of oak, ash, beech, birch and it was beautiful. Somehow I never enjoyed leaving our property since the forest was different somehow. I could never really put my finger on it but something was off.

Pine tree plantation. Notice how all the trees are of the same age, and the monotony of the landscape. This is not a forest.
This map details the health of the forests. Green is good, brown means that the forests are heavily impacted by humans. Only 40% of the worlds remaining forests are healthy.

As I started travelling around the world I discovered what a real forest should look like. I understood the difference between a plantation and a real forest. While visiting Romania I saw a small sample of pine forest that Ceaușescu, the dictator of Romania, had planted amongst the beautiful beach forest. It stood out as a scar in the beautiful beach forest. Luckily he gave up on his plans to do more plantations across the mountains. Sweden on the other hand did what he planned to do. Sweden replaced their entire forest with planted pine of Swedish and other species. It looks the same across Sweden, it’s ugly, lifeless and always young. As soon as it gets old it gets cut down and replanted again. So the swedish forests were replaced with monocultures of pine trees. From above you can’t see it but what is missing is the diversity that makes up a real forest.

Our small lake which was once hidden in the forest was suddenly in the open, the victim of a clearcut. Today the clearcut has been planted with foreign pines.

While walking around our cottage we often come across large swaths of clearcut forest, ugly and desolate scars in the landscape. Often we come up to our house and realise that a new piece of forest has been cut and the landscape is open again.

When I first realised this reality I got really sad. What was once a beautiful forest is now a working landscape. I…