Wood consumption (% of world total)2
Wood consumption in the industrialized world is 12 times higher than in the countries of the South. These countries use more wood for fuel, but that adds up to less than twice the amount used by the West. If current trends continue, by 2010 we will use 20-per-cent more wood. If everyone in the world consumed as much as the West does, wood consumption would double in the same period.1
has gone to the
Moon but he does not
know yet how to make a
flame tree or a birdsong. Let us
keep our dear countries free from
irreversible mistakes which would
lead us in the future to long for
those same birds and trees.'
Former President Houphouet-Boigny
of Cote d'Ivoire, a country which
has lost 90-per-cent of its
original forests and
Why have tropical forests declined so fast? Partly because of the demand for specialist woods like mahogany, teak and ebony and partly because forests are cleared for land, which often ends up as plantations for export crops.1
. About 55 per cent of the wood cut today is used directly for fuel, while the rest goes on industrial products like lumber and paper.
. About half the world's fuel wood is produced in five countries: India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria.
. Many indigenous groups are being forced to abandon the forests which are their livelihood. In the Brazilian Amazon, there were originally 230 native groups with an estimated 2 million people. Today there are half as many groups with only 50,000 people in all.
. Five countries produce more than 45 per cent of the world's industrial- wood harvest. The US, Russia, Canada, China, Brazil, Sweden, Finland, Malaysia, Germany and Indonesia account for more than 71 per cent of industrial production.
. The Philippines exported all but 10 per cent of its wood in the 1960s and 1970s and now has to import wood; 18 million forest dwellers have become impoverished as a result.
The wood and the trees
These three globes show the percentage of land covered by forest. In 1950 it was 30-per-cent, half of which was tropical forest. By 1975 the area covered by tropical forest had declined to 12-per-cent and today it is half that. In contrast, temperate forests have remained at a steady 20-per-cent, thanks to reforestation.1
The Forest Stewardship Council is a global certification scheme for timber and wood products. Like the organic standard or the fair-trade mark the FSC logo provides a guarantee that the wood in a product comes from well-managed forests. A wide range of forests from Sweden to Brazil have received the FSC certification - look out for their logo on any wood products that you buy.
1. State of the World 1999 (Worldwatch Institute, Earthscan).
2. Gaia Atlas of Planet Management edited by Norman Myers (Gaia Books).
3. A to Z of World Development (New Internationalist Publications 1998).
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