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When purchasing furniture or constructing a building, the consumer’s main focus is not on where the product was made and the consumer is most likely never provided the information about where the product materials were sourced from.  In the article “The Stolen Forest” written by Raffi Khatchadourian in 2009, we are introduced to illegal criminal activity of wood from different origins. We follow the journey of Alexander von Bismarck and Wu De, acting as spies for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and tracking down the suppliers of illegal wood to multiple countries. They work for “Axion Trading” a fake company created as a front for the EIA.

            Through the investigations of Bismarck and Wu De, it is discovered criminals in China import illegal raw wood from Russia and then make finished products which are then exported to different countries and sold at Wal-Mart, one of the many stores receiving products from the illegal activity. One of the many reasons that such illegal activity goes unnoticed is because many of the people involved in the illegal business are dangerous and affiliated with the mafia. If anyone tries to interfere with the illegal importing of wood, they are usually murdered by the families operating the business. Another reason is the governments of all the countries involved do not want to take responsibility. The countries that demand the wood do not think they have to be responsible for the forests in other countries.  The governments of the countries with the forests believe they do not benefit from the forests and have no interest in mandating laws stipulating that suppliers be legal. A possible solution proposed by Bismarck is that there should be a law within the countries receiving the supplies to require each company importing the supplies to find out if the products are from a legal or illegal supplier. Bismarck had the US government pass the Lacey Act requiring everyone to be responsible for the products they imported and take care to find out if they are illegal or not, because whatever the reason they would be responsible.

(Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold).

The Monsanto Company asked to be excluded from the act because it would prevent them from acquiring materials from other countries for “research” purposes without the approval of the people or the country being taken from. Eventually Monsanto was excluded from the act because they are not part of the timber industry and the bill would be passed allowing the regulation of timber, at least within the US.

            The article, “China’s Voracious Appetite for Timber Stokes Fury in Russia and Beyond,” written by Steven Lee Myers in 2019, over a decade after Khatchadourian published his findings, reveals China is still importing wood from countries around the world from Russia, Peru, Papua New Guinea, Mozambique to Myanmar. China does not allow people to log from its own forests without strict adherence to its laws although it ravages other countries’ supply of timber. China is the largest importer of wood importing 200 million cubic meters of wood from Russia in 2017. It spends roughly about $23 billion on its import of timber.

More than 120 companies and factories have opened in Manzhouli to capitalize on the wood trade, which has skyrocketed since China restricted timber in its natural-growth forests. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Overall, it is depressing to read this and find out about how the forests all around the globe are being depleted at an alarmingly rate through illegal activity that not many countries are regulating and thus, allowing to happen. The biggest demand for wood/wood products is in America. The American people don’t care or know where the products they purchase are made and the material from which they are made, which in turn does not give any incentive to the sellers to check where their products are sourced from. So, with this, it is apparent that every individual must be conscious of what they buy and request the suppliers where the products come from and who they are purchasing from. It’s also revealed, there is a lot of corruption within the government and businesses, who are ignorant to the effects of allowing these criminals to deplete the forests of their wood. They are greedy and want to become wealthier with disregard for the people from whom they are allowing the resources to be stolen from. By depleting the forests, we are allowing climate change to occur at a faster rate because of our activities. The reason countries start caring for biodiversity is when something is on the verge of becoming extinct through their actions. By not mandating strong restrictions, they are losing profits and valuable resources that may not be replaced.  

Works Cited:

Khatchadourian, Raffi. “The Stolen Forests.” The New Yorker, 28 Sept. 2009, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/10/06/the-stolen-forests

Myers, Steven Lee. “China’s Voracious Appetite for Timber Stokes Fury in Russia and Beyond.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/world/asia/chinas-voracious-appetite-for-timber-stokes-fury-in-russia-and-beyond.html

image: https://www.globalwoodmarketsinfo.com/china-price-index-for-imported-sawn-timber/

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