As we all know, conventional wisdom isn’t always accurate: such is the case when it comes to evaluating environmentally friendly building products. Despite many people’s beliefs to the contrary, buying exotic lumber is actually good for the environment. Yes, really. As we continue our discussion of how the lumber industry promotes healthy rain forests — and, by extension, a healthy global ecology — we’ll start by continuing our discussion of how economics comes into play.
The situation for landowners with standing timber is essentially the same as those with land that has oil available: while lumber demand (and legal harvesting and exporting) continue to thrive, they’re motivated to not only continue to feed into the industry but also to continue aggressive replanting and other sustainable practices. (Of course, the comparison ends there, because unlike lumber, oil is not a renewable natural resource.)
In light of this reality, when a logging ban or decrease in demand comes into play, the effect is that their land loses its worth. The only reasonable response is deforestation, typically to allow the land to regain value through agricultural use or for livestock grazing. Whether or not we can convince people of the philosophical reality of the intrinsic value of forests, the reality is that the land owners get to call the shots. And if they can’t make money on lumber, they’ll find a way to make money off their land in some other way.
In addition to the intrinsic value of forests promoted by ascribing economic value to trees, the ecological value of trees can be documented and quantified. Particularly as newly planted trees grow into mature ones, the benefits of biosequestration are profound. (Of course, the greatest force toward planting new trees is actually promoted by the harvesting of mature trees by the lumber industry!) Unlike manufactured products, which at their “greenest” will have a neutral impact rather than a negative one on the amount of atmospheric carbon (also referred to as a small “carbon footprint”), lumber actually has a positive impact on atmospheric carbon.
Let’s back up: plants and humans function in a reciprocal way through the naturally occurring Carbon and Oxygen cycles. Too much Carbon in the atmosphere is believed to contribute to the phenomenon of Global Warming. Whether or not you subscribe to that theory, we know for sure that fewer greenhouse gases emerge when more Carbon is kept out of the atmosphere. Organic material, such as lumber, stops short of releasing any Carbon into the atmosphere when a tree or lumber is allowed to naturally decay. By capturing the Carbon, the ecosystem benefits.
We’re guessing that if this economic and ecological information is new to you, you’re pretty surprised as well as convinced of the many benefits of buying exotic lumber. But believe it or not, we’re not even finished explaining the full scenario! Check out Part 3 to learn even more about the environmental benefits of using natural exotic lumber and how it positively contributes to the world around us.
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J. Gibson McIlvain Company
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods and has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.