Virtuous Globalization

The ability of American consumers to use their immense purchasing power to influence global trends knows no end.

First it was a campaign not to buy clothes made in overseas sweatshops. Then it was "fair trade coffee." Now it's a campaign to buy only lumber that's been certified as "green," which means it supposedly wasn't cut down in a way that damages tropical forests or the endangered animals that live in them. (See story, page 1.)

Home Depot and other big lumber outlets have signed on to this latest campaign. The result may be higher prices for consumers, but the long-term benefits to the planet - and to timber-exporting nations - are immeasurable. That assumes, of course, that the campaign actually works.

Enforcing "green" standards in many developing countries faces big obstacles, such as corruption. Southeast Asian nations have seen their forests ravaged, often by Japanese-led groups. A campaign led by Philippine environmentalists in the 1990s forced Mitsubishi and other timber-processing companies enough to revamp their ways.

"Green" restrictions on the forest industry in the US have forced Americans to import more timber. That dependency, fed by an ever-rising demand for timber products, requires a closer watch on how foreign timber is felled. If "green" certification doesn't work, US consumers should look hard at how much wood they use.

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