Sunday, April 1, 2007

Oh, man

I have been as sick as I've ever been since Thursday night, when I got home from Hibbing. We weren't sure if it was stomach flu or food poisoning until this morning, when Russ came down with it, too, which really sucks because I'm not very well yet to help get him through it. I'd probably have been hospitalized if he hadn't been around to get lots of fluids into me--I was extremely dehydrated by Friday night. Usually when I'm sick I lay around watching romantic comedies and Zucker Brothers movies, but this time my brain was going in and out of commission and so I didn't do much of anything. Fortunately, I'm feeling a lot better today, though I'm still pretty weak and fuzzy-headed.

Apparently I missed a huge ice storm. Russ said it wasn't too bad in our neighborhood, but I got an email from a woman in Superior who found an iced-up, dead crow in her yard, and watched as an iced-up robin toppled, dead, from a tree.

If you can stomach it, today's big lead article in The Washington Post is worth a read--it's an expose' on the international logging industry. Don't buy ANY wood product from Ikea, Home Depot, Lowe's or any other discount store--or any store period-- unless it bears the Forest Stewardship Council stamp of approval. According to the article,

Home Depot sold some $400 million in products certified by the FSC in 2005, compared with $15 million in 1999. Still, those recent sales represented less than 5 percent of the company's total wood-product sales.

I was horrified, visiting the headquarters of one major discount online retailer last month, when one of their staff boasted to us that they are big enough to be able to pressure their vendors to get as much produced abroad, "especially in China!" so they can get "great margins!" My desk at work was from Ikea, and may well have been cut out of tropical woods that need protection. Our voracious appetite for cheap goods is literally destroying our planet. Here's just one little part of the huge article:

Some of the largest swaths of natural forest left on the planet are being dismantled at an alarming pace to feed a global wood-processing industry centered in coastal China.

Mountains of logs, many of them harvested in excess of legal limits aimed at preserving forests, are streaming toward Chinese factories where workers churn out such products as furniture and floorboards. These wares are shipped from China to major retailers such as Ikea, Home Depot, Lowe's and many others. They land in homes and offices in the United States and Europe, bought by shoppers with little inkling of the wood's origins or the environmental costs of chopping it down.

"Western consumers are leaving a violent ecological footprint in Burma and other countries," said an American environmental activist who frequently travels to Burma and goes by the pen name Zao Noam to preserve access to the authoritarian country. "Predominantly, the Burmese timber winds up as patio furniture for Americans. Without their demand, there wouldn't be a timber trade."

At the current pace of cutting, natural forests in Indonesia and Burma -- which send more than half their exported logs to China -- will be exhausted within a decade, according to research by Forest Trends, a consortium of industry and conservation groups. Forests in Papua New Guinea will be consumed in as little as 13 years, and those in the Russian Far East within two decades.

These forests are a bulwark against global warming, capturing carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to heating the planet. They hold some of the richest flora and fauna anywhere, and they have supplied generations of people with livelihoods that are now threatened.