According to the world bank illegal logging generates around $10 - $15 billion anually and is run by organized crime.
When i came across this news it had me thinking back to my many trips to a small country in the heart of Africa called Malawi. Each year when i returned over a period of several years i noticed more and more of the realities of deforestation and its impact. There were a number of factors driving the cause in Malawi's case but i expect they apply in many of these cases. Wood is a source of fuel for these indigenous people in countries where rural infrastructure in the form of power is non existent and when it is its unreliable at best. Then in order to feed their families opening up land for agricultural purposes becomes another motivation and then elements of a tradditional rural subsistence way of life plays a role in that fishing on their lake is and always has been conducted from dug outs and obviously to make a dugout one needs a decent diameter tree. They dont last too long given they are dragged up on the beach at the end of each trip and soon wear a hole in them and are abandoned due to lack of resources and availability of materials to repair the dugouts. (note this is a place you buy nails at the market by the ones not pound but each). There is also the carving business which has seen the local craftsman using the trees, specifically ebony which used to occur in quantity, making items for the toursit trade.
While these very local demands impact their forests its not this demand that is causing the problem to the extent of billions its the logging for commercial sale of the large old growth in some of these countries. Malawi does not have and never did have much to offer in this sense.
But he point got me thinking about the discussion going back to selling crafsman wares to the population and how one might educate the customer to appreciate the merits of your output and choose to purchase your goods as opposed to goods from sources with questionable ethics.
The US government has enacted laws governing the trade in "illegal timber" it even has gone after some big name manufacturers for using wood of questionable origin.
But all this does not stop the people who purchase this wood and convert it to a product and then sell said product to the US market. I would imagine that the pac man type demand that a country like China can place on commodity demand will easily see them using wood from illegal sources.
But this is not the case when local woodworking craftsman make up a piece of furniture from wood either that they purchase from a reputable supplier or as a strategic decision adopt and approach of buying wood from a local sawyer and making it a point to market the origins of the wood used in their furniture.
There are several of our comrades here that saw their own wood or even offer said wood for sale. In many cases such wood has been secured through reclaiming downed trees and putting to use said lumber rather than it ending up in a landfill.
I dont claim this will work in every case but i imagine or at least like to believe or hope that there will be a element of client out there that would put a value on the merits of examining more than just the issue of what the price of the item is and supporting local craftsman in the community but on also knowing that the raw material for their product was being procured from a legal source but more specifically a sustainable resource making the product environmentally friendly.
Making full use of these non woodworking elements of your product will help project a far superior product and quality of craftsman demonstrating your awareness towards these issues and your own contribution to helping to solve them.
I dont see how we as individuals are going to prevent the mass illegal deforestation except through our governments etc but making the consumer who has a choice recognise that perhaps the wood product being sourced by a Walmart from another country needs to have some demonstrable proof that it did not get made from illegal lumber.
My point is i dont believe guys that sell their work and have this element inherent in their work make a big enough song and dance about the merits of locally sourced sustainable lumber being used and use this fact to their advantage in a sale. These aspects are not neccessary obvious to every customer, some of whom would not even be aware of deforestation as a topic.
The real sad thing is that much of the wood that is suffering harvest illegally takes lifetimes to grow so i dont see that there is a sustainable way they will ever manage those forests given the pressures locally with the forests being the various peoples only significant natural resource.
Whats your view, do you think the custom furniture client cares where the wood is sourced? Do you think it would make any difference in a potential sale to mention your source of lumber?