Tonight the Avon by the Sea Council will be holding a meeting on the construction of their boardwalk. Currently the town is proposing to use Ipe (e-pay) wood in the reconstruction. Ipe is a tropical hardwood found in the Amazon Rainforest.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have raised concerns over the use of this wood. Belmar recently decided not to use the wood after widespread opposition from environmental groups. We know that the community wants to rebuild the boardwalk as quickly as possible but this must not be used as an excuse to undermine environmental protections not just in New Jersey but internationally.
As shore communities rebuild we must not do so in a way that significantly contributes to greenhouse gas pollution. Our rebuilding efforts must not increase the future impacts of climate change.
We want the shore to rebuild as quickly as possible, however they should not do it at the expense of tropical rainforests. Using rainforest woods will increase impacts on climate change and storm surge affecting Avon by the Sea and other shore communities even more.
As a community that has suffered catastrophic impacts from storm surge and sea level rise, Avon by the Sea should be concerned about the impacts of global climate change and the impacts from severe weather. Clear cutting rainforests in the Amazon should not be promoted especially since there is no sustainable way to harvest Ipe and there are no certified programs to do so. Using this wood impacts critically and environmentally important rainforest and adds greenhouse gases, increasing climate disruption.
There is no way to sustainably harvested Ipe. Anybody who says they can sustainable harvest Ipe is lying. When they clear cut the soil erodes and when they try to replant the trees they all die. It ends up becoming grazing land or sugar cane adding to global warming and sea level rise.
Using Ipe results in the destruction of many of the last remaining places for important species that are in some cases more than endangered. Using Ipe results in the destruction of places that are important for scientific research and help develop important biomedical advances. These practices chase indigenous people out of their historic homelands. Shipping the wood over 6,000 miles from the Amazon increases the climate change footprint of the boardwalk project. We believe using public money to pay for this unsustainable wood is wrong.
There are better alternatives. Plastic wood such as trex and other recycled plastic woods are actually better because do not get splinters, they are cooling on your feet when walking barefoot, they are softer if people fall, and they last longer. By using the recycled plastic help protect rainforests.
Alternatives woods can also be used. Black locust is an invasive species in the northeast which can be used. The municipality should also look at using salvaged wood, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Weather Proofed Ash found in North America and Canada is an alternative used heavily by European nations and is another alternative Ipe.
The lesson of Hurricane Sandy is that we need to build things better and smarter not repeating the past. We must look at the world when it comes to climate disruption more holistically. Avon by the Sea’s gain of a new boardwalk should not be at the expense of our rainforest.
Jeff Tittel, as identified in his Patch Profile, is Director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.