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Illegal logging is one of the most harmful of all activities to the environment. Despite awareness and efforts for several years to try to stop it, it persists to this day and if anything, it seems to be getting worse. It is happening on a colossal scale – right now.
Deforestation of the illegal kind affects all of us. In addition to the extreme damage to the environment, the contribution to climate change, the extinction of plant and animal species, and destruction of tribal societies depending on the forest for their livelihood, it damages human economic factors also: An estimated 16 billion dollars of legal revenue are lost each year because of it. 
The statistics are astonishing. It’s out of control. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 73% of timber production in Indonesia is from illegal logging. The World Bank reports 25% of timber exports from Russia are from illegal logging. In Gabon – 70% of harvested timber is from illegal sources. Worse still – in Peru and Brazil, illegal logging is reported to account for 80% of all logging activity. And there are many other nations in which it is going on.
Greenpeace reports that over 80 percent of the world’s ancient forests have already been destroyed. This is a shocking figure. With 1.6 billion people all over the world depending on the forest to survive (60 million being indigenous people who will be wiped out or displaced without the forests), illegal logging is a threat to both humanity and the environment. 
One of the most shocking reports on the human tragedy of illegal logging focused on Peru and was published over two years ago. In September 2014, Edwin Chota and three others, all members of the Asheninka people of Peru, were murdered in the Peruvian Amazon while on their quest to protect the forest. The area around the village of Saweto where Chota lived was being destroyed by illegal loggers – and the government was turning a blind eye towards it. The four men entered the forest to meet other tribesmen and never returned. 
Edwin Chota was a known activist in Peru who worked tirelessly to stop illegal logging in his beloved country. He faced death threats daily from logging companies, with each threat becoming more and more specific and terrifying than the last. Eventually, Chota and his colleagues were murdered in the forest and their bodies dumped among the trees. While their widows vowed to continue their husbands’ noble works, the event shone a spotlight on the state of illegal logging in Peru – and how far the illegal loggers would go to continue deforesting the Amazon. 
Because the demand for tropical wood continues and because of the high price tag on the wood, illegal loggers will not stop raiding the world’s forests. According to investigations made by the Environmental Investigation Agency, more than a third of wood exports from Peru to the US from 2010 to 2012 were illegally taken from the forest. While there are numerous laws in place that aim to protect Peru’s Amazon, corruption and organized crime have made enacting these laws very difficult. Illegal loggers are becoming more and more ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to continue cutting down trees for profit.
That tropical hardwood furniture you bought? Bad news: Reports have now stated that despite labeling, there is no actual way to tell whether your “sustainable” tropical hardwood furniture is actually from a legal source or from criminal activity. 
Things you can do to help:
In order to help save the world’s forests – or at least do your part in decreasing the demand for illegal tropical hardwood – here are a few tips.
1. Don’t buy new tropical hardwood products. In Brazil, 80% of logging in the Amazon violates government controls – which means that most of the wood that comes from there is illegal. Mahogany in particular is an “offender” – often referred to as “green gold”, mahogany can fetch over US$1,600 per cubic meter. Illegal mahogany opens the door for illegal logging of other species, and for widespread exploitation of the Brazilian Amazon. A lot can happen, deep in the jungle: Greenpeace investigations in Brazil reported that no reliable legal chain of custody exists for mahogany – indicating that it simply cannot be assured that it was responsibly harvested. Other key tropical hardwoods which you may wish to avoid in new products include rosewood, teak and ebony.
2. In with the old! Instead of new wooden furniture, shop around for used / antiques. Not all antique furniture is expensive. You can find really good deals at auctions or even yard sales.
3. If you can’t let go of buying new wooden furniture, buy furniture made with bamboo. Bamboo is a verifiably sustainable, incredibly fast-growing source of wood and is considered generally safe to purchase.
4. Downsize. Don’t crowd your home with too much furniture. Remember, buying nothing actually contributes to the fight against illegal logging. For if there was no demand, they would not bother.
5. Plant trees! While planting trees near your home won’t replenish the lost trees in the Amazon, adding more trees to the environment will help offset the damage done by illegal deforestation.
6. Stay up to date with the latest reports from the WWF on illegal logging activities. They can also receive donations which will help them continue their work.
 World Wildlife Fund. Illegal logging. http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/forests/threats/illegal_logging/
 Greenpeace (2008). Illegal logging. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/forests/threats/illegal-logging/
 Zaitchik, A. (2015). Blood on Your Ottoman: Your Furniture’s Link to a Murderous Logging Epidemic. http://www.takepart.com/feature/2015/02/06/sustainable-furniture-killing-indigenous-people
 Leal, D. (2014). Edwin Chota’s Dream. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/forest-trends/edwin-chotas-dream_b_5793066.html
 Illegal Logging (Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_logging
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