The Purpose of the Clearinghouse
What remains of the world's natural forests and forest cultures is rapidly being destroyed, with devastating and irreversible impacts on biodiversity, the global climate, economic self-sufficiency, cultural independence, and human rights. Millions of people in the tropics continue to clear the forest because of inequitable land ownership and the drive to use agricultural land for export crops. Recent trade and investment agreements and policies are exacerbating the concentration of economic and political decisions in the hands of the transnational corporations controlling the global timber trade. National governments, whether in the undeveloped South or in the industrialized North, are no match for the financial and political power of global corporations. In fact, local and national governments, along with national and international development banks and agencies, are actually providing huge subsidies to deforestation.
The destruction of the world's forests is linked to an international timber industry driven by complex and shifting economic, geographic, and political forces. Access to and understanding of complex data is necessary if environmental, economic, and human rights problems are to be understood within a context useful for coalition-building. A comprehensive database needs to be compiled, structured in practical forms suitable for citizens and grassroots activists, and made available to the public on an affordable basis. The ideal database would gather, analyze, and make available comprehensive and current information on the state of the forests, the structure and current and proposed operations of the industry, the behavior of consumers, the nature and needs of forest communities, and practical and comprehensive reforms necessary for protecting both forests and communities. Alas, no one has all this information, much less the wisdom and power to implement what needs to be done. What follows are a working database of some research sources and methods in several areas: