During a visit to our city, Jane Goodall, the world’s most famous primatologist and a United Nations messenger of peace, sent a special plea to Mayor Bloomberg and our city and state representatives and the heads of New York City agencies: “We don’t need benches and railroad ties to be made of tropical hardwoods,” she said. “If you’ve been in tropical forests, if you’ve seen how life is entangled, you would feel the same kind of pain that I do when those forests are destroyed.”
When the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and the designers of the South Street Seaport demand ekki, they initiate a process that not only leads to tropical deforestation but also kills chimpanzees. Loggers gouge open the old growth forests of Africa to extract the ekki trees and, in the process, ignite savage chimp wars in which four out of every five chimps die, according to Dr. White, a field biologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Dr. White says that chimps are petrified of both humans and the big, noisy machines of large-scale logging operations. As a result, they flee—right into the territory of the next chimp community. The males from the invaded community attack the refugees, and many die. As the loggers continue to advance, the invaded community itself becomes displaced and new warfare breaks out.
Next, a small army of professional hunters follow the network of bulldozed roads created by logging operations. Along the way, the hunters kill large quantities of chimps and monkeys, antelopes and anteaters, and sell them as “bushmeat,” a high-priced, luxury fare in various urban areas.
It’s not just the chimps and other animals who are in danger, however. The environmental situation in West Africa is so dire that, according to Xinyu Zheng, of the Centre for Global Change Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, further deforestation in the region “could cause the complete collapse of the West African monsoon.”
“I continue to be hopeful,” Jane says. In the face of ecological devastation, she still sees the ingenuity and energy of the human spirit as we slowly awaken from our unsustainable past. “I continue to pray,” she says. “For the decision makers, for the people of the world, for the environment, for the future.”
EKKI IN THE CITY
Subway Track Ties
The Metropolitan Transit Authority, a state agency, uses ekki for subway track ties.
It’s too bad the MTA hasn’t yet followed the lead of Chicago Transit Authority. Way back in 1998, the CTA began converting the track ties of their L train routes over to recycled plastic lumber. The CTA rightly brags that they are the nation’s largest purchaser of recycled plastic railroad ties, and that these ties “offer both performance and environmental advantages.”
It’s a decade after CTA’s visionary design. The science is in. Please urge Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander and the MTA to do the right thing for the nation’s most renowned transportation system and for the peoples and chimps of West African rainforests.
On-line form: http://mta-nyc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/mta_nyc.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php
South Street Seaport
In 1985, the City of New York built the decking of the South Street Seaport with ekki. Just 25 years since this installation, the ekki has withered. The epoxy used to patch it up makes the pier look as if it was spattered with industrial kitchen sludge. Don’t tell us that recycled plastic lumber wouldn’t look better! And it would last a heck of a lot longer, too—over 100 years.
General Growth Properties and the City are currently re-designing the pier and, unless we can get them to do the right thing, they’re going to order a massive amount of rainforest wood to replace the decking.
South Street Seaport
On-line form: http://www.southstreetseaport.com/html/contactus.asp
General Growth Properties, the agency spearheading the renovations of SSS