Sustainable certification programs in third world nations are not what you would call foolproof. For every product that actually comes from a sustainable operation, you have those that don’t but claim they did, and separating the wheat from the chaff is not usually possible — a few bribes, some forged paperwork and everything looks golden. You might think you got a certified product, but you wouldn’t want to bet your first-born on it. Everyone pretends, or at least assumes, these schemes work so they can continue to buy the lumber. In this sense, the certification process may be unintentionally increasing deforestation. Just another of those unintended consequences that often pop up as we pave roads with good intentions.

Norway appears to be the first country to have figured this out. A simpler and far more effective measure is to simply not use it. Statsbygg (no, I did not just fall asleep on my keyboard — that’s the name for the Directorate of Public Construction and Property) has banned the use of all tropical wood (certified or not) in public works:

Today there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged.

Japan is taking a similar tack for one species of tropical wood:

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Some 500 companies that had accounted for approximately 95% of ramin use in Japan had stopped the import and use of ramin by April 2007 [certified or not].

They need to tell that to B&Q (the U.K. version of our Home Depot), which at least plans to stop selling illegal lumber.

The fact that tropical forests continue to disappear at a rapid rate is all the evidence you need that certification programs are not stopping it. When my neighbor used tropical hardwood for his deck, all he needed to assuage his guilt was the remote possibility, even the suggestion that the wood might be certified. “Yeah, like they said it was certified or something.” Don’t use tropical wood.

If you would like to participate in a campaign by the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club to stop the use of tropical hardwood to rebuild the boardwalk in Ocean City, click here before Wednesday. Maybe we should emulate Norway. “Yeah, right, when monkeys fly out my butt,” you mumble under your breath. Anyway, here is what I told them:

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I don’t even live in New Jersey. But you can bet I will never be a tourist there either if you use tropical lumber for your boardwalk. The planet is experiencing its sixth extinction event at our hands. We are destroying our biodiversity with billions of small cuts like this. Don’t use tropical hardwood. Your children and grandchildren will thank you.


the CEO of a recycled materials decking company

Continuing to other articles, we have a photo of a Sumatran tiger with one of his legs ripped off by a snare in a “protected” park. About half a dozen gorillas were killed in a “protected” park in the Congo. Suspects for the murder of anthropology professor James Petersen were caught — quite an interesting article:

Peterson collected evidence of sophisticated societies in the Amazon rainforest. These civilizations built extensive road networks, practiced large-scale agriculture, and produced elaborate pottery, but left little trace after they were wiped out by European disease in the sixteenth century.

And finally, this:

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, plans to develop seven “forest mines” in the so-called “Heart of Borneo”, an expanse of biodiverse rainforest on the tropical island that is home to orangutans and other endangered species. Documents obtained by the The Sunday Times suggest that the Australia-based [coal] mining firm has lobbied to have the protected status of some areas lifted so it can begin operations.

The coal industry goes up against industrial agrofuel for the last scraps of our biosphere.

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