K+BB - November 2008 - (Page 32)

Natural Selection When picking wood, choose wisely Mahogany. The word itself conjures a sense of depth, comfort…luxury. Its rich, red timber resonates with us. We widen our eyes at its amazing, wavy luster and adore its classic style. For generations, mahogany has signified wealth and warmth. We appreciate it so much, some of us even name our children after it. Mahogany was first used around 1500 by Europeans following the Spanish exploration and colonization of the New World. It became prized by furniture makers for its dark, reddish color and for its stability— not too hard to carve, it could be scrolled to the finest detail without breaking. This quality enabled an elite style of early European furniture. Mahogany became a standard of design. But the history of mahogany is also the history of colonialism, forest destruction and even murder, as the demand for this wood drove loggers deeper and deeper into pristine jungles, putting them in conflict With a natural range similar to mahogany, ipê, often called Brazilian walnut in the United States, is used for decking, flooring, benches and even sinks and bathtubs. Eighty percent of ipê logging is illegal, resulting in the massive destruction of ancient forests. And there’s no such thing as an ipê “plantation.” Ipê trees are being cut from old-growth forests, which are from 250 to 1,000 years old. The Amazon rainforests in which they grow have existed in their current state for millions of years. In Asia, exploitation of teak was closely tied to the British colonization of India and Burma and the Dutch colonization of Indonesia. Revered for its incredible durability, teak was used by these colonizers largely to build their naval ships. The demand for teak has contributed to the death of thousands, as well as to the demise of the majority of the forests of India, Thailand and Burma. Today, teak is also used for indoor and outdoor furniture, flooring, decking and construction. Logging for wood is the single greatest factor leading to the destruction of the world’s forests. with the forest ecosystems and with their original human inhabitants. West Indian (Caribbean) mahogany, Swietenia mahogani, was the first to be exploited; sometimes called “true” mahogany, it is still considered to be the best of the three New World mahoganies. By the late 1800s, large trees were hard to come by and demand had shifted to Pacific Coast mahogany, S. humilis, which would, in turn, become rare in trade due to over-logging. Since the 1950s, the major species in trade has been big-leaf mahogany, S. macrophylla. The tree ranges from mid-Central America into South America and is found extensively in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, where it is currently being over-harvested. Since the 1980s, environmental organizations have reported violent conflicts with loggers and indigenous forest peoples. By 1995, at least 10 indigenous tribes living in the rainforests of Brazil had had members killed by illegal loggers. Today, the largest mahogany exporter is Peru. Estimates are that 80 percent of logging in Peru is done illegally, and indigenous people—some of whom desire to remain isolated—are again in conflict with loggers. CAUSE AND EFFECT Globally, the exploitation of timber has been a major driving force behind colonialism, genocide, murder and the overthrow of at least one government. The trade in illegal wood is the second largest illicit trade in the world, outstripped only by the trade in drugs. Logging for wood is the single greatest factor leading to the destruction of the world’s forests. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), the world loses an estimated 13.5 million hectares of forest each year. Of that, 12.6 million hectares are tropical forest. But UNFAO considers “deforestation” to be the clearing of at least 90 percent of tree cover. During typical rainforest logging, up to 50 percent of the surrounding forest is directly damaged through road building, skidder trails and from peripheral damage from bulldozers. This large-scale forest degradation isn’t considered “deforestation” by UNFAO and may not show up on satellite images. Recent studies have shown that UNFAO numbers for tropical forest loss should be doubled to consider damage from logging. Additionally, during the 1990s, an average of 3 million hectares of new plantations were planted globally each year, and UNFAO counts these as offsetting natural forest loss. But plantations are not forests. They cannot support the biodiversity found in old-growth forests in general, much less the incredible diversity of tropical rainforests. According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), if new plantations Continued on page 34 OTHER SPECIES But mahogany isn’t the only tropical species in high demand. Exports from Brazil of ipê, a species that was relatively unknown in the United States until recently, have now topped those of mahogany. 32 + K BB November July 2004 2008 / www.kbbonline.com / The Official Sponsor of K/BIS www.kbis.com http://www.kbbonline.com http://www.kbis.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of K+BB - November 2008

K+BB - November 2008
Contents
Online Contents
Online News
Feedback
Products
Trends
Special Green Section
Editorial/Green Intro
California Greenin'
Buying Green
Serious About Green
Natural Selection
Q&A
Control Issues
Green on a Budget
Airing Out
Earthly Wonder
Under the Influence
Cover Story: Under the Influence: An Asian-Inspired Kitchen with Green Appeal
Green Products
Ad Index
Editorial Index
Favorites

K+BB - November 2008

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