from the Macaw Landing Foundation -
* Tropical Hardwoods
Woods such as tropical plywood (sometimes called lauan or meranti in the
stores), mahogany, teak, rosewood, wenge, cocobolo, zebrawood, paduak
and ramin are all highly detrimental to the rainforests. Demand for
these species is driving devastating logging, both legal and illegal,
throughout the rainforests of the world. Logging is the number one cause
of rainforest destruction in S.E. Asia. Philippines is now 80%
deforested, Thailand, 80%, and two Malaysian states, 50%, all for
logging for plywood. The US is the second largest importer of tropical
hardwoods. The plywood is used for paneling, door skins, sub-flooring
and sub-roofing, furniture backing and picture frame backing. The other
woods are found mostly in furniture (all), futons (mahogany, ramin) but
also in musical instruments (ebony, mahogany), picture frames (teak,
rosewood, ramin), and even tool handles (ramin).
What you can do: Avoid any wood product that you cannot
identify as domestic. For plywood, use domestic softwood plywood (pine
and spruce) or domestic hardwood plywood (maple and birch). Avoid tools
with wooden handles unless they are oak, ash or hickory. Buy used
furniture or antiques. Always ask if any tropical woods are
independently certified, such as Smart Wood (tm). These are okay to buy.
This, the most popular fruit in the world, is responsible for massive
degradation of the land, chemicalization, worker poisoning, and
oppression. Workers all over the tropics are now attempting to organize
for better conditions, but are being fired for it. New rainforests are
being cleared daily for more plantations. Currently, no fresh banana
available in the US is grown in a way that is not detrimental to the
rainforests. Organic is better, but even those are grown on plantations
that used to be rainforests. Good for Dole, bad for the rainforests.
What you can do: Until bananas can be certified as
Rainforest Safe (tm), the best bet is to avoid them entirely. If you
must have bananas, eat only organic. Ask your grocer to order Rainforest
Farms (tm) dried bananas. Eat locally grown produce, such as peaches and
Coffee is highly responsible for the continuing loss of rainforests.
Coffee growers in Central and South America are being convinced to
convert their "shade-grown" coffee plantations into high-yield
monocultures. This necessitates much higher use of chemicals, since the
full-sun varieties (developed with the help of US scientists) is much
less hearty. Vast areas of formerly productive coffee farms are being
turned into chemicalized deserts. Birds using the farms drop from 93% of
those in primary forests, to 3%. Good for those with stock in Monsanto,
but bad for the rainforests.
What you can do: Avoid coffee unless it is organic and
shade-grown, and co-op grown. You can find this at specialty shops
(almost all coffee from Africa and Asia is such), or look for labels
such as Equal Exchange, Thanksgiving Coffee, Frontier Coffee and the
Organic Coffee Company.
Much of Central West Africa's rainforests have been converted to cocoa
plantations. The workers are being poisoned from the use of agricultural
chemicals and those shelling the nuts are contracting cancers of the
hands and skin. This is now expanding to Central and South America.
What you can do: Avoid chocolate unless it is
organically grown. Newman's Own Organics and Cloud Nine use organic
chocolate from a co-op in Costa Rica.
The largest cause of deforestation in Central America. The US is the
largest importer of Central American beef. Because of its poor quality,
it is used in processed beef products.
What you can do: Avoid all processed beef (hotdogs,
hamburgers and dog and cat food).
More and more, temperate rainforests are being converted to tree farms
for production of paper, be it newsprint, magazine paper or copy paper.
In the process, jobs are lost through greater mechanization and exports
of raw trees. The same is happening in the tropics as large corporations
convert tropical forests to pulp plantations of non-native species. This
dooms the wildlife and native peoples. The top exporters of paper to the
US are Canada, Brazil and Indonesia, all countries where rainforests are
being converted to paper plantations. All because our demand for paper
is insatiable. According to the US Forest Service, our demand for paper
has doubled since 1950, and will double again by 2040! Much of the last
doubling was packaging; the current one is office paper.
What you can do: Entirely avoid disposable paper
products. Use real plates, napkins and bring a mug with you for drinks.
Share newspapers with neighbors. Clean and recycle everything made of
paper. Seek out paper with recycled content. Avoid packaged foods and
use a reusable shopping bag. At the office, copy both sides, and use
already used paper for draft print-outs and memos.
Aluminum requires massive inputs of energy to mine, process and form
into products. The entire Columbia River basin in the Northwest US was
dammed to provide cheap power to the US aluminum industry. This has
totally destroyed the Northwest fishing industry, which provided many
more jobs and income. Now that power rates are climbing there, US
companies, such as Alcoa and Reynolds, are mining aluminum in Central
and South America. Venezuela is seeking to become the world's top
aluminum producer. In the process, rainforest rivers are dammed for
hydro power, vast areas of rainforests are flooded, human populations
are displaced, and entire species wiped out. 70% of our aluminum is made
into beverage cans.
What you can do: Avoid aluminum if you can, but since
aluminum recycles completely, if you use it, make sure you recycle it.
All of it. You can save the energy equivalent to a beverage can of
gasoline just by recycling that aluminum can! Making aluminum from
recycled aluminum requires only 5% of the energy to make it from ore!
More than anything else, the quest for gold has been responsible for
wiping out indigenous cultures the world over. And the process
continues. In the US, gold was the greatest factor in wiping out native
Americans. In the Amazon, gold miners constantly invade indigenous
lands, murdering Indians and spreading deadly diseases. Entire
ecosystems are contaminated from the chemicals used to process gold. In
Papua New Guinea, the Ok Tedi gold mine "the world's largest" has silted
the river with contaminated tailings, killing it and making life along
the river impossible. The natives are suing the company. Recently in
Guyana a tailings dam broke, spilling cyanide into the river, killing it
for 5 miles downstream. The company was not kicked out -- on the
contrary, they received approval to expand the mine. 70% of gold
production goes to making jewelry.
What you can do: Avoid gold entirely. There is no good
reason to buy it. If you own it, consider selling it.
Vast areas of rainforests in Ecuador, Bolivia, Indonesia and Nigeria
have been contaminated by oil drilling operations. The natives of
Ecuador are suing Texaco to clean up the mess it left from 22 years of
oil production in the middle of pristine rainforests in a National Park.
According to the government's own figures, Texaco spilled 1.5-times the
amount of the Exxon Valdez spill in 17 years, just from the main
pipeline! In Nigeria, activists attempting to get Shell to clean up the
mess it has made of the Ogoni homeland were recently hung by the
military dictatorship. 50% of the oil we import is used to fuel our
cars. 40% goes to make electricity.
What you can do: Drive less, walk, use a bicycle or mass
transit. Car pool, ask your neighbors when they are going out. Turn out
the lights unless absolutely necessary. Install energy efficient
lighting (this saves you lots of money, too!). Turn down the thermostat
in the winter and turn off the air conditioner. Recycling saves great
amounts of energy as well, as does buying used items.
* Steel (Iron)
In Brazil, the Carajas iron mine, the world's largest, uses charcoal
made from the surrounding forests to process the iron. This mine is
estimated to consume 16% of the Amazon forests by the time it is spent!
What you can do: Sell your car and don't buy another
one. Recycle all metal objects. Most towns now have bulk recycling or
try the phone book under "recycling".
While we tend to narrow our focus in our daily lives,
and indeed, such concentration is essential to accomplishing our goals,
we encourage you to take a thoughtful look at the BIG picture too. For
inherent in the conservation of one species or one small habitat or one
isolated indigenous group is the preservation of the Earth's entire
health. We are living on a planet with a population increase that is out
of control. There are now more people alive on our planet than have ever
walked its face since the beginning of time and humans continue to
damage our environment at an unprecedented rate. More than a third of
the planet's plant and animal species exist exclusively on a scant 1.4
percent of its land surface, which is mostly rainforests. We are losing
this rainforest at the rate of 1 1/2 acres a SECOND, to provide the
developed world with oil, steel, wood, bananas, coffee, gold, beef,
chocolate, paper and aluminum, to name just a few items. In Brazil we
are losing the dryforest at an even greater rate to make room for cattle
ranching, soy farming and steel production. We have a population of
several million indigenous people living in the rainforest, many of whom
prefer no contact with the outside world because they fear extinction.
The Siona indigenous people of Ecuador and Colombia numbered several
thousand before Texaco entered their lands to drill for oil. Today they
number less than 500, and because of the polluted water supply in the
rainforest they are developing cancer. Texaco spilled 17 million gallons
of raw crude oil in the rainforest of Ecuador, and left it. (See
www.MacawLanding.org for related articles.) That's over half again as
much as the Exxon Valdez spilled in Alaska. There is a ten-year-old
lawsuit pending against Texaco by the Siona people for one billion
dollars, the cost to clean up the oil, which Texaco has refused to do.
The rough-shod attitudes and methods of some large, well known companies
drive other indigenous people to retreat farther into the rainforest to
avoid persecution, harassment and ultimately, death. The U'wa indigenous
people of Ecuador have had to threaten mass suicide to stall Occidental
from drilling on their lands.
Go on to The Stray
Return to 7 January 2001 Issue
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