Green Wood?: Sustainable Forestry and the Forest Stweardship Council Introduction
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For the final research paper component of my study abroad program through Antioch College on Brazilian ecosystems, biodiversity, and resource management, I chose to write on the subject of sustainable forest management and The Forest Stewardship Council, perhaps the most well-known and rigorous "sustainable wood" certifier. I put the term “sustainable wood” in quotes because the conclusions I came to while researching the efficacy and very ability of FSC certification to protect tropical forests indicate that FSC certification in fact ensures very little, other than the continued destruction of some of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests and all of the beauty and biodiversity contained within. For this paper, I relied mainly on research by other biologists, ecologists and economists, though I also conducted some primary research during a one-week stay at Precious Woods Amazon, a FSC certified logging camp located in Itacoatiara, Brazil. During my time there, I was able to gain valuable insight into the inner-workings of Precious Woods (PWA’s Swiss parent company), and I saw first hand the living conditions of their workers, their methods of timber extraction, and their overall impact on this particular section of the Amazon rain forest. While I certainly draw on my qualitative observations from my time spent at PWA in this paper, other more credible scientists have gone much further in measuring the impacts of sustainable forest management on tropical forests. Since I wrote this paper, FSC certification has started to appear on wood around the world, including timber in large hardware stores like The Home Depot. For the time, it appears the FSC will continue to certify tropical woods and people will continue to buy it, though nearly all research indicates that in no way does FSC certification ensure sustainable forest management. This of course begs the question, is sustainable forest management even possible given our world’s unquenchable desire for tropical hardwoods? Unfortunately, there is little evidence to indicate so. While I was infuriated when I first heard a well-respected conservation biologist conclude a lecture by saying, “the only successful form of conservation is guns and fences,” for the time, he may be correct. Until we as a global community can begin the difficult task of scaling down our voracious exploitation of the world’s natural resources, little, if nothing else, will ensure the protection of our tropical forests.