The value in the 1980’s of the timber trade for Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines was about US $3 billion, for about 85 million m3 of wood, only about 4% of the total world supply Katzman & Cale, 1990). These forests are being cut for wood which could easily be supplied elsewhere – from nontropical forests or from wood substitutes. The same is true for other products from converted forests. Beef from ranches in Brazil (and only some of this meat comes from Amazonia) amounts to just 3% of meat imported into developed countries. This meat is worth about $450 million, a minuscule amount compared to the value of the standing forest (Katzman and Cale, 1990). Sadly, tropical rainforests are being destroyed for relatively little gain, particularly in comparison with their value as forests and ecosystems (see above). Much of the destruction is waste – forests burned without extraction of timber and other forest products, forests converted to farmland and then abandoned within a few years, forests being cut for wood and wood products which could come from other sources, including wood substitutes.
“It is hard in this age of near-universal selfishness, materialism, and unease to read book after book of practical reasons for saving wilderness without feeling a twinge of regret for the passing of the priceless, uncorrupted wilderness . . . Now, as with everything else, wilderness has its price. It is . . . difficult to imagine wilderness remaining wilderness after the drug companies, hydrocarbon refiners, gold miners, manatee catchers, and rubber planters have finished with it.” (Ehrenfeld, 1986)
“We are rapidly acquiring a new picture of Earth, and it is crammed with millions upon millions of nature’s species on the verge of being replaced by billions upon billions of hungry people, asphalt, brick, glass, and useless eroded red clay baked by a harsh tropical sun . . . Isaac Asimov may have been particularly visionary when he described the planet Trantor, a sphere of steel and concrete; a hollow joke of its former self. Could Trantor be future Earth?” (Erwin, 1988)