The human race has been the most destructive force on this planet.  As our population explodes on an exponential growth trajectory the odds are sadly against sustainability and socially responsible stewardship.  There are many examples of human society’s ability to destroy – from the destruction of every carnivore species we come in contact with (that we cannot turn into pets), the destruction of the whale, buffalo, temperate forests in North America and Europe in the 19th century, and many more.  Can you name a single instance of a resource that has been preserved and is being managed sustainably and socially responsibly on a global basis?

Yet, I am optimistic that we can reverse this and start to systemically start managing natural resources in a sustainable and socially responsible fashion.  By building a coalition of governments, NGO’s and leading business enterprises to embrace fundamentally thoughtful policies and behaviors, the tide can start to turn.  First, we must recognize the root cause of the problem and then apply policies and laws that motivate the outcome we are seeking – sustainability, and socially responsible behavior.

The answer is simple.  Getting there is everything but…

Allow a sustainably managed, privately owned acre of timberland to generate a better return on capital investment than alternative uses.

It is a complex environment filled with passionate beliefs, largely based on political viewpoints and sadly lacking in facts.  If we truly wish to accomplish this difficult global goal, it will take a coalition of government, industry, and NGO interest working towards that common goal.  The rhetoric  and the politics must take a back seat to the hard work of crafting a robust sustainable future.

WHY ARE WE LOSING FORRESTS?

It’s about the land and not the trees

Let us establish factually why the forest is disappearing first.  Below are figures specifically for Brazil, but the figures for the planet wide disappearance of forest are quite similar. 

1.       Trees are being cut down and clear cut by indigenous entrepreneurs primarily for agricultural use (not to use tree products in industry)  by far.

2.       The total amount of “loss” due to trade in forest products, both legal and illegal is a meager 2 to 3%.  Illegal logging accounts for about one third of the international trade in lumber, with 67% legally controlled.

Taken from [http://www.mongabay.com/brazil.html]

Deforestation in the Amazon

By Rhett A Butler

Causes of deforestation in the Amazon

Cattle ranches

65-70%

Small-scale, subsistence agriculture

20-25%

Large-scale, commercial agriculture

5-10%

Logging, legal and illegal

2-3%

Fires, mining, urbanization, road construction, dams

1-2%

Selective logging and fires that burn under the forest canopy commonly result in forest degradation, not deforestation. Therefore these factor less in overall deforestation figures.


Image001

The above pie chart showing deforestation in the Amazon by cause is based on the median figures for estimate ranges. Please note the low estimate for large-scale agriculture. Between 2000-2005 soybean cultivation resulted in a small overall percentage of direct deforestation. Nevertheless the role of soy is quite significant in the Amazon.

As explained by Dr. Philip Fearnside, "Soybean farms cause some forest clearing directly. But they have a much greater impact on deforestation by consuming cleared land, savanna, and transitional forests, thereby pushing ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers ever deeper into the forest frontier. Soybean farming also provides a key economic and political impetus for new highways and infrastructure projects, which accelerate deforestation by other actors."

Image002

What is Being Done Now and Why it Doesn’t Work

Laws work with responsible people whose gold is threatened

Most countries try to manage forest acreage by retaining government ownership and setting up preserves.  They then set up concessions or contracts for third parties to be able to harvest supposedly a certain sustainable quantity of trees.  THIS DOES NOT WORK.

These struggling governments are generally unprepared to provide the policing and administration that these very large areas would require.   This makes it easy for bad guys to operate.  Concession pricing is often well below market for many reasons, none of which are good.

It is important to note that timber acreage is by definition a renewable resource.  Trees that are removed from a forest regrow.  This is very different from many natural resources like oil, gas, coal, copper, diamonds, etc.  Once these resources are removed from an area, they are gone.  Yet, the same type of approach is used for timber lands????

The answer is simple:

Allow indigenous private ownership of forest acreage with rules and regulations that mandate sustainable and socially responsible management.

For example, if the land owner, say an local community tries to repurpose the land, or to sell it, the ownership rights are lost and there may be punitive measures.  But the economic agent, the owner, has a choice, one of which is to prosper by doing the right thing.

Multilateral Trade in Timber is the Answer Creating Gold to Fund the Infrastructure

What cannot be sold has zero LEGAL value and creates pressure to pursue more lucrative alternatives

For an acre of sustainably and socially responsibly managed land to have value, the harvest from each acre must achieve a higher price than alternative uses net of direct and indirect taxes.  It is in everyone’s interest to promote the use of GOOD forest products and international trade. 

As the value of a cubic foot of forest product increases, the indigenous owner has more to lose if they do not conform to regulations, the communities have better employment opportunities, the indigenous governments have a better  renewable source of revenue, and businesses have a health ecosystem with stable long term supply.  Investments can be made in this stable infrastructure.

The rationing of the harvest in wood product to insure sustainability, particularly scarce wood product actually enhances our goal.  It is basic economics that there is an inverse relationship between supply and demand and price.  The more scare a valued product, the higher the price.  Thus the most desired acreage will be that which has sustainable but very scarce wood product.

I see very clearly the simple path to saving our forest lands and at the same time bringing prosperity to the globe.  Our children and their children can live to see a rich world full of the fruits of the planet and developing countries can grow prosperous and develop.  This view of the future is worth fighting for, and so I am committed to doing just that.  For the issue is not there is no solution, there is solution (see below 5 Point Plan).  The issue is the ideologies, political pressures and positions and the rhetoric that clogs our attempts at thoughtful dialogue.  But this is not insurmountable…

The 5 Point Plan

1)     Create a infrastructure of multilateral strictly enforced rules that have a bad end for bad actors/bad wood.

2)     Allow local private ownership of timber acreage

3)     Promote trade and value of “Good wood” to raise financial yield of an acre of sustainably and socially responsibly managed timber land.

4)     Insure taxes from timber trade cover enforcement and administration of infrastructure for good wood (i.e. this also must be sustainable and benign).

5)     Insure indigenous community benefits in short and long term from “good wood” business.

Henry E. Juszkiewicz

Chief Executive Officer

Gibson Guitar Corp.

309 Plus Park

Nashville, TN 37217  USA

Executive Assistant: Elizabeth Loving

    elizabeth.loving@gibson.com

615-871-4500  Extension 2405

615-884-9405  (FAX)

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