I concur with Ken Druska that reports of the demise of the BC forest industry are highly overrated (A case of stunted growth, Vancouver Sun, March 31, 1999). The long-term silviculture initiatives he advocates would give us the advantage of an industry focused on quality rather than volume.
As publisher of an on-line magazine promoting modern furniture design and sustainability in BC, I also emphasize quality over quantity. The more value we can generate from every unit of timber harvested the better. Unfortunately Ken Druska’s report was luke warm in its support for value-added initiatives. He reflects the values of a generation supported by decades of resource extraction revenues - exporting minimally processed lumber with scant effort for huge profits. In the past there was little incentive for government or industry to develop the sophisticated designing and making skills our competitors found necessary for survival. Therefore it is not surprising that Ken Druska looks to land-based solutions instead of factory-based ones to solve our problems.
data for 1997 in US dollars Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Tables were not part of The Vancouver Sun letter.
Source: 1998 edition "World Furniture Industry: European Union", courtesy World Furniture online.
In reality, industrial wage rates in Western Europe (which produces 45 percent of the world’s furniture) are considerably higher than in BC (see above). A modern furniture industry depends on large quantities of synthetic panels (MDF, particleboard) that can be readily produced from our abundance of low-value fibre. Our limited supply of clear-grade lumber could then be used to produce decorative veneer for these panels and generate a higher rate of return for this scarce resource than the ubiquitous two-by-sixes mentioned in the report.
The forest sector is still a vital part of the BC economy, but we must recognize that our attitudes about it need to change dramatically. We must move from the agrarian (tree harvesting) model toward an industrial model that is innovative enough to produce the well-designed, unique products the world seeks to buy.
note: the letter reprinted here is the original, not the slightly edited version that appeared as "Letter of the Day" in the Vancouver Sun, April 6, 1999.
(*) Now furniturelink.
© furniturelink 1999 (text and images)