In a recent post, we mentioned the idea that contrary to popular belief, composite decking is not actually more environmentally friendly than tropical hardwood decking. A key factor in understanding this issue is to realize that buying exotic lumber actually benefits the environment and does this in many ways. The truth is that if you really want to help preserve the rainforests and help lessen global warming, the best thing you can do is to purchase lumber from trees that grow in rainforests throughout the globe. As counterintuitive as that may seem, it is reality. That might leave you wondering what really causes deforestation.
The Truth About Deforestation
It may seem logical to assume that logging — and, by extension, the lumber industry — is largely responsible for deforestation, but that presumption is not supported by reality. In an ideal world, perhaps we could all appreciate the value of a forest’s natural beauty without muddying the waters with dollar amounts. But in case you’re not aware, the world in which we live is far from ideal. (Consider Ecuador’s controversial Yasuni-ITT initiative.)
In fact, deforestation is more likely to occur when the lumber import trade is disrupted. However, when a logging ban occurs in a given area, the trees in that area lose their monetary value. Out of desperation, land owners are essentially forced to find new ways to make money from their land.
Most often, repurposing the land means clear cutting or burning down forests for other uses. As a result, cattle ranching actually accounts for a whopping 65-70% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Agriculture accounts for another 20-35%. Logging, however, answers for only 2-3%. The reality is that the lumber trade gives timber value and — by extension — a reason for land owners to protect the forests. Added benefits to the lumber industry across the globe include job creation and benefits to local economies, along with awareness about the importance of protecting rainforests.
The Truth About Exploitation
Because of governmental regulations that require sustainable practices and careful tracking from the forest to the lumber yard, today’s lumber industry is actually responsible for planting more new trees than it cuts down — which benefits their own interests in the long term. But you might be wondering if there are still opportunists that somehow exploit the rainforests, skirting the regulations so carefully put into place.
While we may never be able to completely eliminate illegal harvesting of lumber, the local, national, and global regulations currently in place have made it very difficult for such enterprises. The many safeguards against unwittingly supporting those law-breakers is explained by the IWPA. In our next post, we’ll let you know how you can ensure that the lumber you purchase has been harvested legally and responsibly.