Liberia, semi-miraculously, is still covered in rainforest, even though at one point in its history, warlord Charles Taylor was more or less giving arms traffickers logging tracts in exchange for weapons. The U.N. eventually noticed this problem and ended up saving the country's forests by putting an embargo on the country's "logs of war.”
But now that Liberia is stable, it's interested in growing its less-than-healthy economy, and those forests are one of its more valuable resources. That means the country needs to simultaneously capitalize on its timber, and protect it (especially from logging poachers). Liberia’s solution? Put a barcode on every tree in a logging tract and on every log that's cut from those trees. That way, when the logs arrive in the EU, Liberia's biggest timber customer, buyers can confirm they've received a legally logged product.
It's unclear yet if barcodes can preclude illegal logging. But we hope the system works, because Liberia's rainforest is the only place in the world with a viable population of pygmy hippos, which look a little bit like those miniature pot-bellied pigs, only more awesome.
- By Barcoding Trees, Liberia Looks to Save its Rainforests, environment360
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