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Friday, March 24, 2006

More On Resource Depletion

I found this interesting piece on China's wood consumption in the FT today:

"Consumer demand in Europe, Japan and the US for reasonably priced everyday furniture and other Chinese wood products is feeding a growing appetite in China for imports of illegally felled timber, according to a new report...."

"According to the report by US-based Forest Trends, the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry Re-search, and the Beijing-based Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, China has become the world’s biggest wood workshop in less than a decade."

Chinese manufacturers account for 30 per cent of the world’s furniture trade, with the value of China’s exports of forest products rising from $3.6bn (£2bn) in 1997 to $17.2bn last year. Big markets such as the US and European Union have in- creased imports of Chinese wood products by between 700 and 900 per cent over the same period, the reports says....

“Until now a lot of the focus has been on China’s role as a destination market for illegally harvested timber. One of the key messages coming out of this report is that China is right in the middle of a global commodity chain that is driven in large part by consumers in North America and Europe.”

Here's a link to the full report.

Now going back to my last post but one, I was tentatively trying to suggest that three processes are intimately interconnected: global demographic change, global resource consumption and global climate change (see my Argentine icebergs post).

Essentially rapidly changing age structure in some very populous countries (in particular China and India) is leading to very rapìd growth in their economies. The economic development that accompanies this is leading to an ever rising demand for raw materials to feed the process (and in China's case to feed the export drive - the point being would we in Europe and the US be consuming so much wooden furniture if it wasn't so cheap??). This is causing resource strain and price rises (with the energy issue being only the tip of the iceberg - ha, ha). At the same time growing manufacturing and energy consumption is feeding the climate problem.

Now, I am not a population 'gloom and doomer', but this doesn't mean we don't have problems. Basically I take the view of the Danish economist Ester Boserup that in the long term changing relative prices and our creativity enable us to adapt. But this is really the point: in the long term, and just how long is long in this context?

In the meantime we are pushing up against some definite limits here, and in the short run I can only see the problem getting worse.