This paper argues that natural forests cannot compete in terms of generating revenue per unit area with land use alternatives such as intensive agriculture or forest plantations. It calls for the reformulation of an ethic which has a better understanding of time, and which is embedded in policies and institutions that are temporally aware and serve future generations.The author poses the questions: what exactly is time, what value does it hold and how much does humanity have left? Do values change over time, and how can these be changed without sharing time? Should a precautionary principle be adopted with respect to forest ethics?The paper argues that those involved in the forest sector should search out ethics, policies and institutions that will deliver collective and individual temperance. This includes:discriminating between forest and land use types, adopting a precautionary approach to interventions in complex natural forestsensuring that all of the categories of value are considered in determining forest and land use, beyond the simple value of monetary gainallocating land and forests on the basis of equity within and across generations, with priority for sustainable managementstrengthening institutions that are free from political and commercial vested interest and that have equity and sustainability as core mandates, for example favouring local institutions over centralised onesdeveloping criteria for the representation of future generations in decision making and institutional procedures through which that representation can inform decision making.