Hey, I'm Tryin' to Destroy the Rainforest Here!

Just read an article about the apparently widespread use of tropical hardwoods in New York City. The numbers are impressive:

...the market for Ipé wood drives much of the industrial logging of the entire Amazon, and has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. An emergent flowering tree, which peppers the canopy of the Amazonian rainforest in hues of pink, magenta, yellow and white, Ipe grows in the rainforests at densities of only one or two trees an acre. This means that vast areas of the forests are razed to the ground to feed the market for a single tree. It is estimated that, for every Ipe tree cut, 28 other trees must be cut and are thrown away. For New York City's 10 miles of boardwalk alone, over 110,500 acres (130 square miles) of old growth Amazon rainforest were logged.

...despite rampant illegality, climate change and mass extinction, Bloomberg's administration persists in procuring wood from tropical rainforests. And it is not just the Parks Department, but a number of city agencies which have largely ignored proposals for existing economically and environmentally sound alternatives.

The Department of Transportation uses tropical hardwoods from West Africa for the terminals of the Staten Island Ferry as well as the decking and benches of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian promenade. In marked contrast to the city of Chicago, the New York City Transit Authority continues to use tropical wood for its subway ties, despite the fact that, as Chicago recognized, "plastic ties ... last at least twice as long as wood ties ... better resist decay, insects, water absorption and are free of chemical preservatives," according to Chicago's transit board president. While Conrail and other major railroad companies have tested recycled plastic lumber as an alternative to tropical hardwood, and found such alternatives superior in every way, including longevity, the NYCTA has yet to announce even an interest in alternatives to tropical hardwood.

As sad and stupid as this all seems, I can't help but wonder, how long ago was the wood harvested? Is rainforest wood still being harvested for ties and benches in NYC? I think we can all agree that it shouldn't have been touched in the first place, but Bloomberg hasn't been in office for very long, and the author seems to place most of the blame on his shoulders. If the wood has been in place for years now, it hardly seems reasonable to call him to task for something done under another authority.

But whoever was in charge at the time of construction should be called out and questioned. It is disheartening to think of all that acreage of forest being felled and its inhabitants displaced just so people could walk on its pieces. Perhaps the city should put up a series of hip little exhibits discussing the origins and procurement of wood used in the ties and the boardwalk, try to use what's already there to educate people about deforestation and perhaps make them think about where the elements of their city come from.

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The problem is "post hoc ergo propter hoc" The origin of the wood was discovered (or at least publicized) after Bloomberg took office, so it's his fault.