Saving the Last Forests

Deforestation is a political topic as well as an environmental one. The industrialized countries, having done all the deforesting they liked in their own countries, tell poor countries they cannot do the same.

You’d think, considering what’s at stake, that the already-deforested countries would pony up some dough to save the last existing forests. To compensate people who would otherwise cut down trees. Not a chance.

This goes beyond carbon offsets, beyond environmental policy, beyond any law made by any country. It concerns the world’s ability to breath.

The world’s forest have been assaulted during all of modern history, but never so much as they have been during this turn of the century, and the greater part of the most recent devastation has been illegal.

Deforestation is one of those things we hear about, and they sound bad, and we’re sorry about them, but we’re not sure what it is, exactly, that we can do to stop it.

How about, for starters, not paying for it?

If you buy a product made out of wood, wouldn’t you like to know if the wood was harvested legally? I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

Well it turns out there are a lot of people who would just as soon you didn’t know, and you can find out all about it in an article called The Stolen Forests by Raffi Khatchadourian in the October 8 edition of the New Yorker. I picked it up in the sauna.

It’s about the Environmental Investigation Agency, a private agency which is, on a shoestring, doing what the United Nations and the governments of the world should be doing: identifying illegally forested wood and tracing the profit trail through the world’s economy, ending, naturally, in a well-known ubiquitous discount store here in the United States. You know who I’m talking about.

So it turns out there damned well is something we can do about it, which is not to buy these products and make it illegal to sell them. This is something governments around the world can do if citizens use cattle prods on them.

It’s the only thing that’s ever worked.