Yesterday, environmental activists in New York City unfurled a 35-foot banner blocking the iconic view of 10th Avenue from the High Line park to protest the Amazon wood used in the park for bleachers, benches and decking. The banner read, “High Crime on the High Line! FSC Lies: Amazon Wood Is Not Sustainable!”
Activists Unfurl 35-foot Banner on High Line to Protest Park’s Use of FSC-Certified Amazon Wood
Two New York City-based groups, Rainforest Relief and New York Climate Action Groupcoordinated the banner action to confront the “First International FSC Friday,” an event held on September 25th by the Forest Stewardship Council to promote their certification scheme.
According to Friends of the High Line’s website, the tropical hardwood used throughout the High Line was certified by FSC-accredited agencies. The wood, called ipê, originates from primary Amazon forests in Brazil and Peru. Ipê trees are typically 250 to 1,000 years old and grow an average of one or two trees per acre.
“We targeted the High Line because it’s one of the highest profile parks in the world,” said Tim Doody, a spokesperson for Rainforest Relief. “We think there are well-intentioned designers and architects who have no idea that the FSC certifies wood from ancient primary forests, including the Amazon. That kind of logging destroys vital carbon sinks and opens the forest to land speculators, cattle ranchers and plantation farmers.”
Formed in 1993, the FSC accredits agencies that in turn certify logging operations according to a set of principles that the FSC claims will protect forests and local people. However, a growing number of environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth UK, Rainforest Foundation, Ecological Internet and World Rainforest Movement, are accusing the FSC of violating their own principles.
“Instead of launching vacuous marketing ploys such as ‘FSC Friday’, the FSC would be better off trying to address some of their underlying issues,” said Simon Counsell. Counsell, a founding member of the FSC, now monitors the agency on FSC-Watch.org.
Citing a study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, Counsell stated, “Research in the Amazon has shown that, over a period of years, commercial logging greatly increases the overall propensity of the forest to dry out, burn and disappear. This happens regardless of whether the logged areas are certified or not.”
On July 12, 2009, the Brazilian government announced that federal police had broken up a timber-laundering ring in the Amazon involving 3,000 “eco-certified” companies that had been receiving illegal wood for years. FSC-certified companies are among the implicated.
Dr. Glen Barry, founder of Ecological Internet, said “It has become evident to environmentalists in the know that FSC has become an obstacle to ending ancient-forest destruction and addressing climate change and biodiversity loss.” EI is demanding that FSC stop certifying wood from ancient primary forests around the world.
The government of Norway has turned criticism of “eco-certification” schemes into policy. In 2007, officials there banned the use of all tropical timber in public buildings. “The government wants to stop all trade with unsustainably or illegally logged tropical forest products,” stated Norway’s Directorate of Public Construction and Property (Statsbyyg). “Today, there is no international or national certification that can guarantee in a reliable manner that imported wood is legally and sustainably logged.”
“What’s missing in the certification debate is the broader issue of simply reducing the consumption of wood products,” said Tim Keating, Executive Director of Rainforest Relief. “All the world’s forests cannot be industrially logged, and there are so many alternatives – like post-consumer plastics – that should be considered first.”