The RIC Good Wood Guide


Cutting Down on the Tree Habit

How do we reduce timber consumption and have a healthy timber industry?

There is no question that we need more trees all over our world. One estimate is that we need 7 to 14 billion acres replanted in order to reforest the earth (the Earth Island Institute says that the world's trees are cut and burned 30 times faster than they are being planted). The plantation industry has called for massive global planting strategies to offset the increasing demand for timber. But maybe the whole timber industry needs to collectively stop for a moment to consider the possibility that the people of the world need to use less timber and not be so wasteful with the (timber and non-timber) resources we already have.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase "Less Consumption, More Joy"? Regardless, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the more we desecrate this playground, Earth, by taking more than we care to give in return, the more unhappy we become. This, above than any other factor, is the reason why this Guide has attempted to pursue a holistic agenda, and in doing so, attempt to inspire YOU, the reader, to act on your awareness of the situation, and not merely become better informed. All the sensible suggestions in the world will not turn around the crassness of our present-day 'consume-at-all-costs' consciousness unless there exists the group-will to put earth-friendly ideas into action. Political will to change can only follow in the wake of community initiative.

"Good Wood" as a definitinitive term, needs no longer necessarily to confine itself to timber products and their usage. Many non-timber building alternatives are "Good Wood", too, in that their use reduces our need to imprudently consume precious timber resources.

Many more variables have been added to the Good Wood equation in the nineties: for example, timber certification, value adding, wood-use reduction campaigns, the mainstreaming of what were once "alternative" non-timber building materials, etc.

The call by conservationists and consumers for an expanded plantation base for our timber industry can be seen as only the first of many steps back to harmony with (human) nature. Beyond the present push to create sufficient numbers of hardwood and softwood monoculture plantations, we need to progress to the point where eventually all our plantations are established and managed using a diverse mixture of species. For this to happen, we will need to increase our understanding of the need for greater biodiversity within our cultivated areas, whilst we continue to adequately satisfy material needs.

A happy consequence of achieving this aim will be a decrease in land disturbance and wastage. Beyond this again lies the potential for plantations to begin to very closely approximate natural forest. In fact, it is possible that one day, large plantations as separate entities will cease to exist. In their place could be (huge) wilderness areas, managed natural forests of more modest size, plus smaller woodlots, bounded and buffered by the natural forest. Is there a place for industrial forestry within the context of this vision? Of course! However, "industry" as we know it then, may bear little resemblance to the present model.

This Guide still has a way to go before it can consider itself a truly comprehensive and authoritative purchasing aid and reference source. There are still many negatives and unknowns about timber and the industry from the consumer's point of view: Toxicity of glued and treated timbers; the use of pesticides in forest management; the whereabouts and credibility of tradespeople, designers, timber processers and sellers who claim to be ethical; the location of public and private plantation sources of 'good wood'; and the dilemma of which species are "good" and which are "bad". Supplies of ethically produced timbers are nowhere near meeting green consumer demand.

Consumer demand is already very strong for new 'good wood' products, processes and information. It is the intention of this Guide to sound a cautionary note about sensible timber-use practices because of the declining state of Australia's and the world's forests. It is not part of our agenda to be blatantly negative about timber in general, but rather to encourage and empower the consumer to assert themselves (yourselves) with a degree of intelligent discrimination and broader understanding of the responsibilites which accompany the purchase and use of trees, timber and land.

Through receiving accurate feedback and being open to constructive criticism and exploring new initiatives, the suppliers of your 'product' can respond in a positive, progressive manner to the need for change for the common and individual good.

One of the biggest issues in terms of global perception of the timber industry's operations is that of corruption. The money that can be made from short-term forest exploitation is staggering! Certain corporations and individuals seem to be drawn to the logging 'game' purely because they crave maximum material gain - this at the expense of every other living thing.

The grassroots environment movement, since it lacks the financial clout of corporations, must nurture and maintain its credibility (honesty, accuracy, clarity, openness, accountability) like a sword (axe?) of truth, to be wielded as its major tool (not weapon) for change. If properly utilised, this will be evident by an individual and movement-based willingness to sacrifice lifestyles and livelihoods in order to play a more effective part in redressing the severe energy imbalance on this globe.

There is, now, an even more urgent need for concerned people to harness and use their consumer-power and to conscientiously avoid unsustainably-harvested timber and support the more sustainable alternatives. For timber-related industries, it is now imperative to respond to the environmental crisis: to find, create, develop and promote ethically-harvested timber and environmentally-friendly building materials.

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