Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Early History of FSC-WARP Origins

An odd coincidence (a.k.a. serendipity) happened yesterday.

Shortly after my blog post "It's Not Easy Being Green" went up I received an email from a fellow blogger by the name of Kim Dodge. Apparently Kim and I share a mutual interest in the work of a conservation organization called the Woodworkers' Alliance for Rainforest Protection (WARP).

Then, last evening I was rummaging through some drawers looking for an unrelated file when I stumbled upon a document I haven't seen in years. Given the coincidental timing of this find I decided to post it here.

The document is titled "Early History of FSC-WARP Origins" and it was written by Errol E. Meidinger. (I tried Google to find this info so I could cut and paste, but without luck. Therefore I have retyped it below).

The FSC has its direct origins in discussions among a group of small-scale North American furniture makers, the Woodworkers Alliance for Rainforest Protection (WARP), who became concerned about the effects of their exotic hardwood use on tropical rainforests in the late 1980s. By 1990 they had concluded that a system was needed for certifying sustainably produced tropical hardwoods, and that it should be established by environmentalists as quickly as possible. The idea of a certification system, presumably run by governmental organizations, had already been proposed to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), an intergovernmental organization charged with developing national policies for protecting tropical forests. But it had been resisted by some members as possibly a disguised way of boycotting tropical timber, and by others as simply unworkable.

Meanwhile many environmental organizations concluded that the ITTO process had been a failure that would not yield significant improvements in tropical forest management in an acceptable time frame. Thus, they adopted and promoted the WARP proposal for a non-governmental certification scheme.

The World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a major international environmental NGO dedicated to the protection of nature and biological biodiversity, became the primary promoter of forest certification. Together with the MacArthur Foundation, the WWF put significant resources behind the project, resulting in the founding of the FSC in Toronto in 1993. The WWF thus invested in establishing what it hoped would be a distinct, durable institutional framework, after which it continued with its varied activities as a general purpose environmental NGO.

Given how much FSC has grown in size and influence since 1993 I cannot help but be reminded of a famous quote by Margaret Mead, which goes something like this:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

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