Tropical Rainforest Deforestation
Tropical rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Unlike oil and natural gas, we are not discovering new reserves. Plantation-raised trees currently supply only 1-2% of the tropical hardwood market. Even with a complete shift in the policies of the governments where these trees are grown, it is unlikely that we will see more than a small percentage of our current lumber needs met by plantation-grown trees. With our current deforestation rate, most estimates indicate a global shortage within the next 14 years (as of 2009). This will put tremendous upward pressure on the price of tropical hardwood lumber.
There are many forces leading to our current deforestation crisis. Tropical forests are often in the poorest of countries and lumber is a cash crop that can quickly bring in much-needed foreign exchange dollars. The population of the world has doubled since the 1950’s, with the majority of that growth in tropical areas. All of these people need land for housing and agriculture. The worldwide demand for beef has also lead to the clearing of vast acreage for grazing. In our desire to stave off another environmental risk, we are trying to shift from fossil fuels to biofuels. Land is being cleared for palm oil plantations and the higher fuel prices get, the more this trend will continue.