Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another Wood Story

Continuing the 25 March article, I came across a piece in Aljazeera, entitled "Cheap furniture endangering forests." The developed world wants wood products, the cheaper the better, and most likely oblivious to what "cheap" really means. Of course it's an all too familiar story. And China, the willing middleman, is ready to help, well on the way to controlling approximately one-third of furniture manufacturing worldwide.

The most populous country in the world is now the leading importer of wood from tropical forests in the developing world. Some of the more dismal statistics that the Aljazeera article points out is that illegal logging and corruption is widespread among the developing countries that supply the raw wood. Indonesia has lost about 65% of its ancient forests, and the World Bank claims that the country--within 10 years at the most--will lose some of its "richest" areas unless drastic measures are taken to stop the destruction.

As usual, the local communities where the forests are located receive little in compensation, but by the time the finished product reaches New York, Tokyo or London the value has increased thirty or forty times.

Of course it starts with enlightened political leadership in the developed world educating their consumers. Then it becomes the radical idea that global cartoon capitalism doesn't get to decide how to consume finite resources on the planet. Finally, local communities where the raw material comes from begin to receive fair compensation.

Yes, it's hard work getting ethical and intelligent people in positions where they can see beyond the next week or the next election ... as well as getting all of us to understand that "entitlement" has real limits. The fact that we can build a Hummer doesn't mean we should. When's your next election?

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