Invest in your future, then invest in your world.TM
At the current rate at which the rain forests are being destroyed, there will be no more rain forest in 30 years. In the last four decades, the demand for precious tropical hardwoods has multiplied nearly 25 times. People will continue to want them for furniture, woodworking and cabinetry, musical instruments, shipbuilding, and construction. Unfortunately, this means that the rain forests will not last unless something drastic occurs. Not only is the demand driving the extinction of the world’s rain forests, but so is the population increase in the tropics, the fastest population growth area in the world. In 1950, about 2.7 billion people lived in the world. In 2003, that many people lived in the tropics alone.
Tropical hardwoods can only grow in a very narrow band of the world, and several of the most popular can only grow where the mean annual temperature is between 71 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. They also need lots of rain, sometimes more than 6 feet per year. Except for the rain (which is not bad in Costa Rica, since it usually only happens for part of the day), most people would love to live where it is 75 degrees year round. People thrive where tropical trees thrive.
Much of the deforestation has come from clear-cutting the forest to raise cattle for beef. (Cows like tropical temperatures, too.) Unfortunately, this is very short term, because clear-cutting causes massive loss of topsoil and degradation of the streams and the environment. Pretty soon, the land no longer supports cattle, because it has lost its fertility. Then the farm is moved to the next area, and another section of the forest is clear-cut. It is our craving for cheap beef that has created this cycle, and it is hard to be self-righteous when we understand that the people in the tropics are just trying to survive. Although growing tropical hardwoods is vastly more profitable than growing cows, you do not get any money back for at least 6 years, which is way too long if you need the money in order to eat.
Another issue is the poaching of trees from the forests. Since a mature hardwood log can bring in two to three times the average annual income in Costa Rica, the temptation is enormous to cut whatever trees are left. Imagine the temptation to yourself if you could get more than three times your annual income by harvesting one tree! Many of the people who are poaching were loggers in the past. As it was their job to cut down trees, it is hard for them to understand that they shouldn't do it any more.
Currently, 99% of tropical hardwoods sold are taken from virgin, old growth, tropical rain forest. Only 1 to 2% of the wood is currently harvested from plantations. This cannot continue much longer, or, as stated before, within a few more decades, there will be no more tropical rain forest from which to harvest. If you would like to know how you can make a real difference, go here.