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When I took this photo I really didn't know where the logging trucks were coming from or going to, I did know the logs ends were painted and stamped such that they were very official looking. In Laos as in most of Asia appearances are very important. I also knew that the logs were more than likely very illegal, there is no export of logs allowed in Laos.

Attapu is one of those southern provinces no one goes to over by the border of Vietnam. To the south is a part of Cambodia off most maps. Attapu might as well be it's own little kingdom because it's governed as such. The Boloven Plateau separates Attapu from Pakse and the Mekong river valley, things are much closer to Vietnam, and therein lies the rub.

Boloven Plateau is the high bluff behind town, I'd guess it's a couple thousand feet higher in elevation
In town things are very quiet. Few cars, dogs sleep undisturbed, wide empty boulevards. I'm reminded of Laos from the decade before last. There is no entertainment, no English language cafes or guest houses, I saw no foreigners in the provincial capital. There is nowhere for cars to come from or go to except Vietnam. Up the road and up the river is Sekong, which is much of the sameness.

While in Salavan some how the communications went out. No internet, no land line phone, no credit card, no one noticed or cared in Salavan, Sekong, or Attapue.

What prompted me to write and take a look back at my photos from 3 years ago was the release of a video by the Environmental Investigation Agency. I urge people to watch the video, it shows the large scale theft of irreplaceable resources from the Lao people by private companies in Vietnam abetted by the Vietnamese military. The investigative reporters catch officials of the lumber companies admitting multiple times to breaking the law.

Crossroads from EIA on Vimeo.

During the past year scientists have been discovering new species in the Mekong region at the rate of one species every couple days. Laos as well as Burma are two of the largest repositories of unknown species. They have intact uncut forests. No doubt some species are becoming extinct before we know they exist.

The Lao and Vietnamese people have a different kind of relationship in these southeastern portions of Laos. During the war this is the part of the Ho Chi Minh trail most heavily bombed. To the east lay South Vietnam. I would think most of these towns were leveled.

Above the classic pith helmet of the NVA and the Mao cap of a Pathet Lao soldier. I'm not sure how many if any Lao soldiers worked on this portion of the HCM trail. Today Vietnamese junk collectors purchase UXO in villages to be used as scrap

When I see people repairing log skidders I know that lots of active logging is going on not too far away.

Logs are winched up onto the back of the truck and carted to a place where they can be loaded onto an 18 wheeler and trucked over the pass to Vietnam.

Below is the bridge at Attapue, it leads in to town from Vietnam and would also facilitate carrying anything from the entire Sekong river basin over to Vietnam. Nice bridge.

What you can do.

First off don't buy any wood products from Vietnam or China. Neither country has their own lumber industry and anything you buy made of wood from there is coming from cut tropical forests.

Don't buy products made of wood from Europe either. Europe is the second most popular destination after Asia. Rosewood is murder if I can steal a phrase from PETA.

Buy only wood products from America. We have large replenishing sustainable supplies of very good woods.

Think twice before buying anything. After the wood cutters come the rubber plantations and the copper mines. We are eating too much stuff, we consume, we are bloated from big box stores or delivered to your door via Amazon.

Update: Thank You for the Rescue, still not sure how to find out who rescued, but thank you. I should also give a hat tip to the US Embassy Vientiane who clued me in to the investigative video which might well have repercussions in that it names names. Cutting the forests of Laos is becoming an uncool activity.

Originally posted to ban nock at DKos on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:14 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm part of the problem (41+ / 0-)

    I drive, I buy plastic toys for my kids, I eat food grown hundreds and even thousands of miles away, I buy products made of copper, steel, and plastic, I rarely fly but I do fly and hope to in the upcoming year or two, I use rubber tires on my truck, my car, and my bike.

    I'm part of the solution.

    I never buy anything made of wood that isn't from America. I grow a large garden, hunt for local meat, and am going to raise chickens.

    I burn wood that would  have ended up in the landfill.

    My gas and electric and water bills are very small.

    I live in an old house of modest size.

    I don't buy new cars.

    I haven't flown in an aircraft of any type in almost 3 years.

    My brother and sister in law and their eldest. Roof is carbon neutral and supports are from sustainable quick growing wood. They live an extremely low carbon lifestyle.

    "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:12:07 AM PST

  •  Sad (15+ / 0-)

    But hardly news.
    This has been going on for years.


    From my 2009 diary:

    The sad thing is that cutting these virgin forests isn't illegal. It is merely shipping abroad raw wood. And that still isn't enough to be enforced.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:39:42 AM PST

    •  Now any cutting of trees requires a permit (9+ / 0-)

      The permits are possible for local use only and are often given out for building public buildings especially schools. The permits for transportation to a saw mill is much more difficult but possible. The wood that can be seen behind my brother in law for instance I bought at a local yard and it was more expensive than here in the US.

      Everywhere up north where there are mountains the forests are mostly still intact. Too difficult to build roads and the influence of the central government is too strong. So far the lack of infrastructure is a blessing.


      "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 07:25:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  another good one..tipped and recced...... (11+ / 0-)

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 12:14:03 PM PST

  •  The Ents are currently meeting... (8+ / 0-) decide what to do.  It might take awhile.

  •  ban nock (9+ / 0-)

    What a beautiful place being destroyed.
    Nice diary.
    I hope your niece gets to grow up to still see that world.
    You have good suggestions about wood use & the users who care not but for profit.

    I`m already against the next war.

    by Knucklehead on Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 06:03:37 PM PST

  •  Buy used, if you have to buy... (7+ / 0-)

    or recycled. Always. I seldom buy new anymore. I haven't had a new computer in many years. I recently purchased a refurbished cell phone. I'll never buy a new one again. Simplify. Live as if the planet depended on how your are living.

  •  What type of woods are we talking about? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The problem with "buy American", while I am all for it in principle, is that American species are, well, boring compared to the "exotic" woods from tropical forests.

    As a woodworker, I try to only buy exotic hardwoods that is  FSC certified.  But it is almost impossible for an end-user to tell if it is legitimate.  It is probably very hard for the vendor to guarantee that at as well.  But it's the best I can do at this point.

    Also, as a musician, I will tell you the trend over the years has been a movement to the use of more and more exotic hardwoods in the manufacture of guitars.  

    Add to that, the increased use of "trim" pieces in automobiles and the demand for furniture, jewelry-type boxes, turned bowls and even pens has created an explosion in availability of those woods. This is especially true since the internet makes it so easy to purchase stock from nearly anywhere.

    Thanks for your diary.  Education of the consumer is, I think, the key.  

    •  I guess I like cherry because I cut one thirty (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dhcallahan, bumbi, pickandshovel, marina, kurt

      years ago and have kept it in long halves or less. I know it's not as hard as oak but it's pretty and if darkens with age. My dad made a nice desk of sugar maple with drawers when he was a young guy and I still have it. Sugar maple is not only hard but doesn't split too easy and has a pleasing grain. There are a bunch of hickories but I'm only familiar with the shagbark, it's very strong and the heartwood is nice colored. White Ash is commonly used when something springy is needed, baseball bats maybe or sledge hammer handles. The grain is very uniform and the color is just white but I like it ok having split about a million cords and looked at the insides. I like the way it grows so straight and fast in partially grown over woods. I've seen coffee tree lumber but never lived where it grows, a friend had a few pieces he eventually made a table from, the wood worked well and was extremely durable. It's not really coffee. My 30/06 has a stock of black walnut which grows fairly quickly most places and looks great, my rimfire stock is of beach from Checko but we too have a beach, it's a cheaper wood but it stains up ok, the Checks invested the workmanship in the barrel and trigger not imported wood. I guess if I had to name my most favorite exotic American woods it would be the two species we call ironwood which are very different trees, the larger of the two can be milled into lumber. I heard of someone buying a bunch of it cheap out of an old yard and trying to use it as a barn floor that wouldn't rot. They couldn't nail the stuff. I think it's called Ostroya Virginiana or something, maybe that's the other one with the smooth gray bark that looks like muscles.

      I think we have every wood needed to make just about anything here in America, we have it in spades. I didn't even begin with the softwoods, the fine spruces or Port Orford Cedar and what not. Yesterday I cut up some old scrap to make a bird house, smelled like that smell I associate with tearing out old buildings around here. Douglas fir heartwood. A pretty hard strong wood, the board I was using was twelve inches wide, and that was the heart.

      I dont' think most could tell a small jewelry box from southern yellow pine from rosewood to tell you the truth, and most guitar players won't gain much in ability from more money spent in an instrument. It's mostly hype, like a fancier guitar with imported wood will somehow make you better. Saw one for $60 at Walmart, didn't stop to see where it was made. I'd think Eric Clapton would still sound good on it.

      "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

      by ban nock on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 05:30:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I mostly agree.. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bumbi, kalihikane, marina

        There are surely enough wood varieties here in North America to satisfy any need.  

        But it is not "need" I was referring to.  Some woods are hard to match, especially the reds like Padauk, Rosewood, RedHeart, etc..

        People want the woods from those trees.  And there really is no reason some of those trees couldn't be harvested - on a limited basis - as long as there are sustainability controls in place.

        That said, I believe the look of almost all the exotic hardwoods can be mimicked with American woods and stain.

        •  I was thinking those guitars I saw in Walmart were (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bumbi, kalihikane, marina

          probably made in China.

          As far as want versus need. There are no sustainable controls and there don't look to be any in the future. So yes there's a reason those trees can't be harvested, it's to save all the species and forests uncut.

          "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

          by ban nock on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 08:51:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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