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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Friday, July 16, 2010

    Illegal Logging Declines since 2002

    Thanks to greater consumer awareness, better enforcement of laws, and stricter government regulations, for the first time in a long time illegal logging has seen a major decline in recent years. Since illegal logging is one of several major causes of deforestation and habitat destruction, this is some welcome progress. From BBC News:

    Illegal logging in the world's forests has fallen by nearly a quarter since 2002, according to what claims to be the most thorough analysis yet.

    The London-based thinktank Chatham House says consumer pressure, legal restrictions by importing countries and media attention have all contributed...

    The biggest documented falls in illegal timber production have been in Brazil, Cameroon and Indonesia, three of the world's most heavily forested countries.

    Indonesia has seen a drop of 75% in a decade. Cameroon's figure is 50%, and Brazil is between the two.

    Globally, the figure is 22% since 2002.

    Sam Lawson, the report's lead author, made plain that illegal logging remains a major problem despite these impressive gains.

    "That (50-75%) sounds like a lot; but bear in mind that illegal logging was such a bad problem in those countries that even though it's reduced susbtantially, it still is a bad problem...

    In timber producing countries, factors that have proven to be preconditions for tackling illegal logging are political stability and the effective rule of law.

    This raises concerns about some important forest nations not covered in the study, such as Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    It should also be noted that the EU has just passed a major law blocking importation of illegally harvested lumber, so hopefully this will further reduce illegal logging.

    Once again, as I have highlighted before, this issue is not just one of good government policy and law enforcement, but also consumer awareness and action. As consumers we can pick whether the wood products we use have been properly harvested or have contributed to deforestation. Here are some suggested actions you and I can take to preserve the forests that protect watersheds and fertile soils and that sequester carbon:

    So, what can we as individuals do about deforestation? Here are some suggestions:

    First of all, recycle paper and try to switch all your paper consumption to recycled paper. This is extremely important in reducing our use of forest products. Joy and I have managed to switch almost all of our paper use to recycled paper. Many stores carry recycled paper and it helps to ask for it.

    Second, when you do purchase lumber, you can insist that all lumber you buy is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This is a non-profit agency that combines the timber industry and environmentalists to ensure that forest products are sustainably grown and harvested. It is the only certification process that keeps track of the entire "chain of custody" so that certified lumber is not mixed with uncertified lumber along the way. This process sometimes adds to the cost of wood products but often it does not. Generally if the FSC certified product is more expensive it reflects only the fact that people in that area are willing to pay more for it, not any real increases in production cost. If you work through a contractor, make sure that he or she purchases only FSC certified products. If you are purchasing yourself, many stores, including Home Depot and Lowes, now carry FSC certified products. Public pressure forced Home Depot to start carrying FSC products only a few years ago. Be sure to ASK when you are purchasing lumber or other wood products to be sure that the FSC certification is there. (Joy and I have largely avoided this by scavenging most of our furniture).

    I should note that there are several other certification groups. Most of them have been started by the lumber industry without consultation with environmental groups, involve self-regulation by each company ("Oh, yes. I PROMISE this wood was harvested sustainably...really") and do not follow the chain of custody. The FSC certification is the most stringent to date and is the certification that you should look for.

    Third, we have to support forest protection and reforestation projects. The following groups are my suggestions. They are not as well known as more famous groups, but they do wonderful work. Please check out these groups and see if you can help them.

    1. Trees, Water, People: (NORTH and CENTRAL AMERICA and HAITI) Trees, Water, People is composed of a group of dedicated environmentalists who feel strongly about making the world a better place for people through improving their environment. They believe that natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management and that the preservation of local trees, wetlands, and watersheds is essential to establish the long-term social, economic, and environmental viability of communities. They work in several nations in North and Central America. Recently they have started programs in Haiti as well. Please donate to help maintain forests as well as communities in the Americas.

    2. The Green Belt Movement: This organization has won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts. Originally focusing on Kenya, combining empowerment of women with forest management, they have since gone global. The mission of the Green Belt Movement is to mobilize community consciousness for self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods and security, and environmental conservation. The mission of the Green Belt Movement International is to empower communities worldwide to protect the environment and to promote good governance and cultures of peace. They are one of the best groups out there doing this kind of work. Please donate to help maintain forests and communities in Africa and beyond.


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