Unlike fossil fuels, trees - one of nature's most abundant natural resources - can be used in a sustainable way to tie up carbon, to prevent
soil loss and flooding and to support agro-forestry to maintain agrarian communities. What is more, trees and their derivate forest
products, can be used to build cities, instead of high environmental impact concrete, steel and plastics. In fact, the use of sustainably
managed timber as a building material leaves one of the lightest environmental footprints on the planet. Although this message is slowly
beginning to be understood and accepted, there is much work to be done. Sure enough, we are all exposed to the harsh imagery of
rainforest depletion and illegal logging. As a result, somewhere deep in the minds of everyday people, there is a reluctance to accept
timber as a renewable and sustainable resource. However, the truth is that the problems of over-felling and illegal harvesting are limited
to a very small percentage of the world's forested areas and can be overcome and, even, reversed in a relatively short space of time.
In fact, despite what we might think we know about forestry and the over-use of timber from natural forests, Greenpeace data suggests
that only 1.01% of all tropical 'forestry' is used for industrial purposes, including construction and furniture. Of this figure only about 18%
(or less than 0.2% of all tropical forest depletion) enters international trade. The major causes of deforestation are identified as poverty,
population pressure, and shifting agriculture. It is, therefore, healthy markets for wood products that will actually help prevent
deforestation, encouraging supply countries to follow carefully monitored forest management. It is relatively simple economics: a lack of
interest in wood products may only serve to decrease the value of the land; thus endangering those very same forests that could play
such an important role in the future of our planet.
Recognition of the importance of trees and their derivate products is key; whether they are for medicines, food, building materials or,
simply, wood for furniture, flooring, joinery and construction. We need to stretch our imaginations and think "wood" where we usually use
steel, brick, concrete and plastics. We need to (re)educate ourselves and place less emphasis on the negative implications of forest
depletion, while stressing the importance of developing sustainable forestry. In short, we must focus our attention once again on what
contributed so much to our own development in the first place. We must promote the use of wood and, maybe, before too long, wood
could, once again, be at the heart of the world's economics.
© Broadleaf Consulting Pte Ltd 2011