Posted by: Patrick Mosolf | Tuesday, 30 December, 2008

Stop Deforestation by Reducing Timber Product Consumption

When I travel through many of the most beautiful parts of a country which is partially forested, I can see often the results of cutting of trees in vast swathes across hillsides. I then think to my self how great it would be if this cutting would stop, and we as a species would be sure we had preserved enough of the rainforest (instead of the mad dash to log we see now). Many people around the world, who are changing the way they see nature and are coming to appreciate the importance and value of preserving natural places, no doubt share this feeling that we need to maintain a reserve and store of natural forest. Home to diverse species, ecosystems, a network of life which exists parallel to humanity, these places are of such value that they must be preserved, protected and allowed to grow wild.

Recalling a discussion of the impact of logging activity in that country, I realized that if I had traveled here years ago I would see a much more natural, full forest- full of vitality with wildlife living freely. It’s possible to see the effect of human demand for wood when traveling in many countries, and is reinforced by coverage in newspapers and in conversation when traveling.

Yet as a species humans still are consuming more and more wood – fueling logging. The Amazon rainforest continues to decrease in size year after year. Humanity would be wise to stop the decrease in size first, then figure out how much more deforestation is safe. The issue is linked to that of global warming through the proposed mechanism of reabsorption of CO2 by forests.

Much attention has been given to getting certified timber, but it seems that the one of the best ways to resolve this problem is for people to try to reduce their use of wood products. If people would as a group attempt to use less wood, and find wood substitutes, and recycle so that wood products can be re-used, a lot of the strain on the forests could be reduced.

Even simple things can make such a difference. Take the example of China, where the use of disposable chopsticks in an unsustainable way has no doubt led to much deforestation. A global taste for wood products- in houses and furniture, continues to drive unsustainable logging. What if consumers, just said “no”? “I prefer to have a living forest”.

It is often not discussed, but the consumption of a great deal of meat, which is of origin in the South American region, could lead directly to deforestation of forest regions. A great deal of forest land has been cleared for the purpose of grazing. Therefore, a vegetarian diet (or a reduced meat diet) can be another way for people to reduce impact on the rain forest.

Citizens both locally and internationally can also organize to influence the situation and advocate for sustainable natural forests. One thing which could be impacted through campaigning is the vast burning of the Amazon rainforest- simply uncontrolled burning which destroys forest and contributes to global warming. This senseless burning must be stopped. I am aware that there may be a natural level of forest fire, but the level of burning now is past the natural level, I think. Probably other major forest regions also suffer from unnecessary burning.

So, what I’m proposing is to try to reduce the amount of deforestation by individual and collective effort to reduce the use of wood products, and organize where direct change in consumption patterns will not help.

I consider the need to protect the great forests of the planet as one of the most important things that people should be talking about and working on. The value of these natural places is priceless. We have to search more for ways to preserve and protect these places, even expanding and strengthening them from their current status.

So, opening up the idea for debate from readers: do readers think that reducing the consumption of wood products would be an effective way to reduce human impact on forests? Would readers consider doing this themselves in order to make a difference?


  1. I live in a wood house, I sat and write this at my wooden desk, in a wood chair. I like wood and make my living using wood. The wise use of our natural resources is important. trees are renewable – you use the word deforestation – is deforestation when you cut a tree and plant 2 or 3 in it’s place? Managing forest is important to our environment, our way of life, our livelyhood.
    I agee, there are some places that harvest should be restricted. let’s identify those areas and work to protect them – not restrict the industry or the use of the products. Remember in well managed forest, the harvest of one generation of trees is the begining of a new forest.

  2. Mitchell, thanks for your thoughts! I did hope for replies to that post because it is so important!

    I understand that you use wood products now, and that’s not surprising since it sounds like you work in the timber industry. Many other people also use wood products, but that doesn’t mean that they need always to use them in the future, or that they couldn’t reduce their use of wood, or consider other types of products.

    I am not saying that it is impossible to log somewhat sustainably. I am only saying that most consumers do not make that effort (including myself). Further, even those who do, by buying certified sustainable timber for example, are probably not sustainable in other ways, like their use of copy paper, or tissue.

    So I’m saying since it is very difficult now to make timber and wood products sustainable now, for all consumers, one way to address the problem is to just try to use as little wood products as possible- it will have a direct effect.

    Later, when all wood and timber products are certified as being sustainable, then people can use them in clear conscience. But as I note, I don’t think the current situation of wood product use in the world is sustainable.

    So I advocate people take some action and try to use less of wood products, recycle, get involved…

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