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September 27, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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A little less conversation, a little more action

I’ve talked a lot in these columns about how environmental and social justice problems are intrinsically linked; two sides of the same systemically awful coin. Like a terribly PDA couple at a party, it seems to be impossible to detach one from the other. While it’s all very well to bitch about their dependency issues, how do we actually manage to stop them making out in the corridor? It’s not just making the other guests uncomfortable; it’s also fucking up our planet.

Okay, possibly not the highest-quality metaphor. But that is what we do, in university and in general life: we talk about stuff, we theorise, but we don’t transmute theory into action. I can bemoan climate change all I want, I can draw all sorts of conclusions and connections, but it doesn’t mean anything if my complaining doesn’t produce any results.

Back to our overly affectionate bedfellows: today’s example of the interdependency of social and eco inequalities is the destruction of Papuan rainforests, specifically the logging of Kwila, an endangered tree. Deforestation has already led to 83 per cent of Kwila disappearing from the forests of Papua, with the species estimated to slide completely off the map in 35 years if logging persists. We’re talking habitat destruction, species extinctions and hardcore contribution to climate change.

As if being an eco-disaster wasn’t sinister enough, the logging of Kwila also has serious human rights implications. Indigenous people in Indonesian Papua have their lands and resources stolen from them, and groups such as Amnesty International have recorded the torture and imprisonment of villagers working to oppose logging operations.

It seems obvious that logging Kwila is bad. One could say it’s extremely bad. But where’s all this endangered wood going? Who is ridiculous enough to purchase it? Well, Aotearoa and Australia receive about 60 per cent of all Kwila from Papua New Guinea, mostly in the form of attractive outdoor furniture. Yup, that’s right, we are selling and buying endangered rainforest timber; one more thing for New Zealanders to be proud of.

There’s currently no government regulation to stop illegally logged timber being imported into Aotearoa. While many stores have succumbed to pressure from environmental groups, a few continue to stock Kwila products and thus support human rights abuses and the trashing of Papuan rainforests. Bunnings Warehouse is one such example.

So here’s our chance. Not only to concurrently strive for social and environmental justice, but to put our fighting words into operation. Come cut your teeth on some protest action: join Rainforest Action in asking Bunnings to end the sale of endangered Kwila. We’ll see you and your pithy placard at 12pm, Saturday 2 October, outside Bunnings Warehouse, 46–56 Tory Street.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Good to see the coverage of this issue, and hopefully more people are becoming aware that kwila comes at a terrible cost to the environment and to indigenous people who depend on the forests. As you say it is now a threatened species, although it once grew South East Asia, the Pacific and and in parts of India and Africa. The remaining significant commercially viable stands on the island of New Guinea (shared by Indonesian controlled West Papua and Papua New Guinea) are being exploited.

    Just one query – you suggest above that “Aotearoa and Australia receive about 60 per cent of all Kwila from Papua New Guinea, mostly in the form of attractive outdoor furniture”. In Auckland the kwila furniture is sourced from West Papua (Indonesia on the labels). I understand we do import some kwila from PNG – but is 60% correct?

    All the best, Maire

  2. Miller says:

    Hmm if only you could look it up on the internet.

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