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It's seldom that such a widespread species is consumed in such a short period of time. The combination of wealth creation in China and road development in Laos has created a perfect storm of exploitation for the Rosewood that comes from Indochina.

Routes of Extinction from EIA on Vimeo.

A couple comments on the video. The voice over starts out in Isaan language (strange Lao/Thai mix) if I'm guessing correctly, then Thai, then Laotian. The aerial part is nice vid of some of the last remaining old growth forest in Thailand, not much of that left. Easy to get vid of Thai forest rangers, impossible in Laos. In Laos the army is the one doing the cutting.

The common term "rosewood" covers a few different species, some endangered, others simply "vulnerable". I think the term in Lao is Mai Du Dang.

The above video begins in Thailand, some of the only intact old growth forests I've ever seen there, most of Thailand has been cut.  

More below the tangled web of international trafficking in endangered species.

Later the video travels to Pakse, a small city on the Mekong in Southern Laos. As stated in the subtitles of the video I've no doubt that most of the wood in Pakse does come from Thailand, of course not included is all the rosewood harvested in Laos which is shipped from the other side of the country. Wood travels west to east and exits on the Vietnamese border.

There are no videos of police or soldiers in Laos fighting the export of rosewood simply because the lumber industry is a wholly owned concession of the Lao Army. It is traditional in Laos that the most powerful people in the country are the generals from the south controlling the logging.  Another Quiet American is a book partially about working for just such a general.

Above logging trucks parked in the provincial capital Attapu. This is the side of Laos where things exit to Vietnam. I was about 30 miles from the border when I took the photo.

In my travels about Laos I often come upon convoys of trucks carrying large logs. When possible I ask the drivers where they are coming from, where they are headed, and what species of tree they are carrying. My queries have never upset anyone, despite a nationwide ban on raw timber exports the drivers are delivering perfectly legal logs with all of the correct stamps and papers. It's impossible to break the law if you are the government making the laws.

All the proper stamps on illegal logs.

Needless to say international environmental NGOs are big promoters of the conservation of forests, but it's a long way from the heart of Vientiane where everyone lives to some remote forests in Attapeu or Phongsali. Even in those provinces how does one witness logging in places with never ending ranges of nameless mountains and only a government official who is employed by the people cutting the trees to guide you.

My day pack is barely visible on left side of photo. This tree is part of a very old forest that is no more. The people who have lived there for generations uncounted were forcibly relocated, the trees were all cut, a dam was built and hydro generators installed to power the large copper mine on the side of the mountain.

Thanks for the Rec: I woke up to my brief visit to bottom of rec list. I should add I'm not anti logging at all. I'm sure foresters could log sustainably in SE Asia. We send men to the moon and have iphones we can harvest species such that it doesn't harm the ecosystem.

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Comment Preferences

  •  guitars (21+ / 0-)

    I believe it was Gibson that was caught recently buying black market rosewood for guitar necks.
    Big chains are selling electric guitars for $79. Most have at least a rosewood fingerboard, that being the preference of most guitarists.
    Thanks for the diary; though few speak up for any of the species so casually ground under the human foot, virtually no one brings up the exotic woods and other plant life imperiled by our poor stewardship.

    Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

    by kamarvt on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 04:04:26 AM PDT

    •  It's an Issue With Woodwind Musical Instruments (14+ / 0-)

      as well. This is a case where good old black gold plastics would make a better choice. Like the fingerboard of a guitar, the shell of a woodwind has almost nothing to do with tone, it's a selection made almost entirely for mechanical considerations such as dimensional stability.

      That's why we have for example clarinets made of ebony, plastic or metal. I don't think it takes much imagination to guess the tone of a plastic or steel violin if it weren't electrified.

      Although I'm sure there is an alternate universe where empires fall before the famous Damascus Harp Steel.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 05:01:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Discovery Channel has a series about cutting (11+ / 0-)

      Redwoods in the US (similar to their Deadliest Catch series). Ah the glory of clear cutting ancient trees. Human species is a scourge on the earth.

      Prediction: In less than a century, we'll have killed the planet. These idiot politicians are oblivious and just live to serve the corporations that are glad to destroy the planet for profit.

      No longer Hoping for Change. Now Praying for a Miracle.

      by CitizenOfEarth on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 05:50:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've always felt (15+ / 0-)

        that a mind keyed to creating wealth in the form of money/property is a mind incapable of seeing the larger context we all are forced to share with each other and the rest of Earth's inhabitants. When all you can think of to leave as a legacy is a shit ton of money, you are a net negative on the species and the planet in general. Not every wealthy person fits this mold, but too many never even ask themselves what all that hoarding is really for.

        Money is a fictional construct, a tangible talisman of one's belief that a material debt incurred will be made whole through an agreed-upon medium. Property is likewise an illusion, as the only thing making any property "mine" is a similar set of agreements that mean nothing to the weather, an animal, or an asteroid.
        Unfortunately for our species and most of the higher animals, we have made that very mindset the only one worth lauding. We have a worldwide case of envy amongst those who are relatively new to this destructive siren song, a vicious defense of it in societies that are mature enough to realize it is an existential threat, and the conscious efforts of those most advantaged by it to obscure its harm while accelerating its worst features.

        One of the inevitable symptoms of the climate catastrophe we have unleashed will be the permanent destruction of the global economy, and likewise macro-economies of any large scale. While this will be enormously disruptive, it will not be the most dire of the innumerable crises that are coming.
         I believe, at this point in the denial spiral, it will take such a destruction of predatory opportunity to create the possibility for another way of existing to penetrate on a collective level. Extraction and rent-seeking are easy, linear paths to the chimera of material wealth; only when those activities are nearly impossible to continue will there be any real attempts to end the rape of the planet. We have proven, to me at least, that we are thoroughly unwilling to do what is necessary by choice, so nature will do what nature does; enforce the new order in her usual ruthless way.
        I am ambivalent about the possibility of another civilization (or another sentient species) arising from our ashes, but if one does, i do hope there is enough of our debris left to act as a caution to them should they choose a similar short-sighted path.

        Last full month in which the average daily temperature did not exceed twentieth-century norms: 2/1985 - Harper's Index, 2/2013

        by kamarvt on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 06:18:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another really hard to watch video (12+ / 0-)

    It makes you feel so powerless.

    “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

    by FishOutofWater on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 05:29:08 AM PDT

  •  Knew someone years ago who had a business (8+ / 0-)

    reclaiming Heart Pine from old buildings. Those trees are magnificent. There is one remaining stand of them somewhere in the South, with around 200 trees. It's supposed to be protected but he told me about someone getting permission to cut some down for a 'special' project.

    My grandfather told me of an old Chestnut in the North Georgia mountains, and how he wished it was in a more accessible location. (He was born in 1888, that was the mindset of that time.) He said it was one of the largest trees he'd ever seen. I often wonder if it's still there, or if disease got it. I wonder if the redwood seed he planted up there made it too.

    Thanks for highlighting this - trees are as important as endangered fauna.

    "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Mohandas Gandhi

    by cv lurking gf on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 06:27:28 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for another wonderful posting (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, RiveroftheWest, ER Doc

    Looking forward to the next one!

  •  Ah. You live there. That explains a LOT of what... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, Joe Jackson, RiveroftheWest

    Ah. You live there. That explains a LOT of what I've seen out of you here. To be crystal clear, that isn't anything like a compliment.

    Ban, you *can't* "harvest species such that it doesn't harm the ecosystem". These trees take time to grow; *any* removal without prior replacement years in advance necessarily causes harm to the ecosystem. Replace them FIRST. *Then* harvest. Take a bit less than you initially replaced. *Now* it's a sustainable rate.

    "I should add I'm not anti logging at all."

    And that's why I'm not reccing your diary. That, and the "we have iPhones" nonsense.

    Yes. We have iPhones.

    Whose manufacture poisons the environment.

    The environment in China.

    Where sweatshop laborers make iPhones.

    Sweatshop laborers who work and live amid a poisoned environmental disaster.


    Yet you think "we can harvest species such that it doesn't harm the ecosystem."

    If i say anything more, I'll be accused of being a dick in your diary, but honestly, there's just no way to politely tell the truth here WITHOUT being a dick about it, because the truth about southeast Asia's ongoing environmental catastrophe IS NOT POLITE to China or its laws and government.

    The impolite truth is that nobody there cares.

    "I should add I'm not anti logging at all."

    I guess I'll just leave. I've said what I needed to.

  •  Over 7 billion naked monkeys and counting (0+ / 0-)

    and as long as those cling to a primitive politico/economic system, nothing is going to change.(except for the worse)
    Within the system few possibilities are available. Valuable tropical woods should be priced so that a sustainable cutting will pay (money) enough to make retaining the forest ecosystem profitable (money). People will buy a $10K guitar, not because it sounds better but because it costs $10k. Like I said, primitive. A poor farmer in Latin America will burn thousands of dollars worth of timber to feed his family some beans and corn because his needs are immediate and rain forest land is quick to erode and lose fertility. Slash and burn is more than a route to failure in agriculture, it's international policy.

    Political Realities are an excuse to vote against progress

    by Wood Gas on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 12:32:41 PM PDT

    •  tropical hardwood is priced very high already (0+ / 0-)

      it's just that none of the money reaches the people who live on the land or those people are forcibly moved off the land to harvest. Governments that make and enforce laws is the greatest need I've seen.

      The slash and burn I've seen is extremely sustainable. No timber is cut, all croplands are burnt in a rotational basis. Mostly bamboo is burnt. They've been using the same fields for centuries.  

      sorry I saw your comment too late to rec.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Aug 31, 2014 at 09:04:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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