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Heralding a major shift in the conscience of the U.S. construction industry, two of the nation's largest homebuilders-Centex Homes and Kaufman & Broad - this week agreed to stop using wood from endangered old growth forests in new home construction, making them the first in the nation to do so.
"These agreements signal a trend that is irreversible" declared Michael Brune, Old Growth Campaign director for Rainforest Action Network (RAN). "A new ethic is emerging in which old growth logging is no longer acceptable. The entire home construction industry will be compelled to meet or beat this new market standard."
The revolutionary promises by Centex and Kaufman & Broad - made in letters dated March 30 and March 29 respectively-are the result of lengthy negotiations and pressure from RAN, the Coastal Rainforest Coalition, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups. Nationwide protests against the two builders had been scheduled for April 1, but were called off after the companies' last-minute capitulations.
"Loggers operating in endangered forests-from British Columbia to the Southeastern U.S. and from Alaska to Indonesia - will be forced to transform their logging practices or they will find their markets will quickly disappear," said Brune. Centex Homes pulls in some $5 billion in annual sales and boasts more than 400 developments nationwide, and Kaufman & Broad builds some 22,000 homes annually, making the two the largest volume homebuilders in the nation.
The U.S. homebuilding industry is the country's largest user of wood products, using a whopping 72 percent of the lumber consumed nationwide to build an estimated 1.2 million new homes annually. The average new home in the U.S. uses well over 16,000 board feet of lumber.
Most homes built today contain dozens of wood components that originate in the world's last remaining old growth forests: Cedar for tongue-and-groove planking and shingles; Douglas Fir for dimensional lumber; Hemlock for molding and trim; Lauan/Meranti for hollow-core doors, plywood and paneling; Mahogany for decorative exterior doors.
Old growth forests are home to some of the planet's oldest and largest trees, some as old as 4,000 years. These forests are also home to more than 200 million indigenous people worldwide, provide habitat for a majority of the Earth's plant and animal species and are critical to moderating the effects of climate change. In the U.S., less than 4 percent of our original ancient forests are still standing, and worldwide, logging and other causes of deforestation have fragmented all but 20 percent.
The announcements from Centex and Kaufman & Broad are the latest in a wave of corporate commitments against the use of old growth wood. RAN worked with a coalition of grassroots groups, including American Lands Alliance, Free-The-Planet, Student Environmental Action Coalition, Sierra Student Coalition, Rainforest Relief, Earth Culture, Action Resource Center, and dozens of other organizations in a two-year campaign to convince retail giant Home Depot to phase out endangered forest products. Following Home Depot's compliance last August, other major retailers, from Ikea to Wickes Lumber, have followed suit.
Building on that success, RAN launched its campaign with homebuilders Jan. 14 at the National Association of Homebuilders convention in Dallas, Texas, where activists inflated a giant balloon shaped like a chainsaw during opening remarks by Newt Gingrich, hung two giant banners from convention center rafters and projected giant slide messages onto the sides of buildings.
"Just as Home Depot shook the foundations of the home improvement industry by vowing to eliminate products from endangered forests last summer, this commitment by Centex and Kaufman & Broad brings us one step closer to a permanent end for old growth logging," Brune said.
New York City is the largest municipal user of tropical rainforest wood in North America, destroying rainforests for benches, bridges, boardwalks, and piers. Rainforest Relief and Wetlands are working to stop rainforest wood use by New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation, the largest tropical hardwood consuming municipal agency in North America, and by NYC's Department of Transportation, which uses rainforest wood for pilings and piers and for the pedestrian/bicycle deck over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Island's Boardwalk, pictured at left, is constructed of the tropical
rainforest wood ipe (pronounced (ee-pay). In the background is the Steeplechase
Park parachute jump ride, where Rainforeest Relief activists dropped
a banner in 1998.
What You Can
Unocal Oil Corporation is involved in a natural gas venture with one
of the world's most brutal and repressive military regimes, Burma's
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). SLORC has received
the strongest condemnations from the US Congress, the US State Department,
the European Parliament, the United Nations Human Rights Commission,
the International Labor Organization, Amnesty International, and ten
Nobel Peace Laureates. Foreign oil corporations provide one of the largest
sources of revenue to the SLORC regime, helping them keep their reign
The gas pipeline will go through a variety of ecosystems including dense tropical forest, disrupting the habitat of rare animals such as tigers, rhinos and elephants. The pipeline area is inhabited by the Karen, Mon and Tavoy peoples who have partial control of the region. This venture is currently linked to forced village relocation, the forced labor of tens of thousands of local inhabitants, and fatalities at the hands of the SLORC troops. This entire region is a war zone due to the ethnic peoples' need to defend themselves against SLORC attacks, making the region highly unstable.
Wetlands is joining activist groups around the world in working to expose Unocal's abuses of human rights and the environment, and force Unocal to join Heineken, Texaco, Arco, Apple Computer, Disney, Eastman Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, Levi-Strauss &Co., PepsiCo, and many other companies who have pulled of Burma!
What You Can Do:
MAKING A KILLING IN BURMA
Depot is the world's largest retailer of old growth rainforest wood
(wood from previously unlogged rainforests) After being targeted by
one of the most significant campaigns in the environmental movement's
history In New York, Wetlands, the Federal Lands Action Group, and Rainforest
Relief have been hammering home the message that old growth destruction
will not be tolerated with a hard hitting campaign demonstrations and
civil disobedience at Home Depot store openings and as part of national
days of action.
Analysis of the Home Depot
Leaders of the Anti-Home Depot Campaign:
The U'wa of the Colombian cloud forest are in a life-and-death to protect their traditional culture and sacred homeland from an oil project slated to begin on their land at anytime. The U'wa are adamantly opposed to the drilling and warn that the project will lead to an increase in violence as seen in other oil regions of Colombia. Despite this, Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum and the Colombian government continue forward with plans to drill.
Indeed on January 25 of this year, the U'wa were evicted from their lands surrounding the drillsite by the Colombian military in coordination with Occidental Petroleum. RAN is focusing its efforts on two targets: Fidelity Investments, one of Oxy's largest, and Vice President Al Gore, also an Oxy shareholder with strong family ties to Occidental Petroleum. The U'wa have made a call for international support; now is the time for us to answer!
More info on the U'wa: