China’s Appetite for Wood Takes a Heavy Toll on Forests
More than half of the timber now shipped globally is destined for China. But unscrupulous Chinese companies are importing huge amounts of illegally harvested wood, prompting conservation groups to step up boycotts against rapacious timber interests.- 360.yale.edu
In Chinese folklore, a dragon symbolizes strength. It is an apt icon for a nation whose rise as an economic superpower has been nothing short of meteoric.
While China’s stunning economic advances have come at significant environmental cost, the boom has been a plus in a few realms. The country is investing avidly in green technologies, such as solar energy and high-tech car batteries. It has also undertaken an ambitious national reforestation program, while cracking down on illegal forest clearing and logging inside its borders. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, forest cover in China, including large areas of timber plantations, increased from 157 million hectares in 1990 to 197 million hectares in 2005.
Counter-intuitively, the expansion of Chinese forests has occurred at the same time the country has been developing an immense export industry for forests.
In its fervor to secure timber, China is increasingly seen as a predator on the
world’s wood and paper products.
China is now the “wood workshop for the world,” according to Forest Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, consuming more than 400 million cubic meters of timber annually to feed both its burgeoning exports and growing domestic demands. Production of paper products has also grown dramatically in China, doubling from 2002 to 2007.